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A free speech play? Elon Musk raises stakes with $43 billion offer to buy Twitter outright

After months of acquiring shares, a lawsuit claiming he failed to disclose his purchases properly, and controversy over his desire for a seat on the board, Musk floats a bid to acquire the company in its entirety.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has decided to throw down an offer to buy Twitter (TWTR) for $54.20 per share, an offer totalling $43 billion. Twitter shares closed at $45.18 Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Photo Credit: IMAGO/NurPhoto

Photo Credit: IMAGO/NurPhoto

Speculation abounds about Musk’s intent with Twitter, but he is indicating that he believes his purpose is to advance the cause of free speech.

Pundits wonder, of course, what Musk means by free speech. Twitter has cracked down on misinformation and inflammatory speech. Constitutional scholars widely agree that the law does not protect one’s ability to yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. Does Musk believe all speech, however inflammatory, is protected? And is his vision for Twitter to be a total free-for-all in the arena of hot rhetoric?

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Trump supporters are clamoring for Musk to reinstate the former president’s Twitter account. One wonders whether this action is on the Musk Twitter agenda.

Reuters reported on Thursday that Musk said at a TED talk in Vancouver, “My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive, is extremely important to the future of civilization.”

Musk reportedly has called himself a “free-speech absolutist.”

With Musk naming a price for the social media company, questions arise about whether other investors are considering bidding for Twitter as well.

One of Twitter’s largest shareholders said he would not vote to approve Musk’s offer. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia tweeted on Thursday, “I don’t believe that the proposed offer by @elonmusk ($54.20) comes close to the intrinsic value of @Twitter given its growth prospects.”

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