Updates on the Elon Musk and Twitter Dialogue Which, I Promise, Are More Thoughtful Than This Title Suggests techdirt.com

First, the biggest news — Twitter is trying to force Elon Musk to negotiate or abandon his attempted acquisition of the company.

Lauren Hirsch and Kate Conger, New York Times:

Twitter on Friday unveiled its counterattack against Elon Musk by putting in place a corporate maneuver known as a poison pill.

The strategy aims to slow or block Mr. Musk’s $43 billion bid to buy Twitter.

A poison pill, devised by law firms in the 1980s to protect companies from corporate raiders, essentially lets a takeover target flood the market with new shares or allow existing shareholders other than the bidder to buy them at a discount. That means anyone trying to acquire the company must negotiate directly with the board.

The pill will be triggered once any individual or a group of people working together buy 15 percent or more of Twitter’s shares. Mr. Musk currently owns more than 9 percent.

That should buy Twitter more time to strike a truce with Musk, but it is a tricky situation because some analysts believe the company’s stock could tank if he sells his shares.

Shortly after announcing his plan to acquire Twitter yesterday, Musk appeared onstage at the TED Conference in Vancouver to chat about his plans for the company should his takeover bid be successful. Musk and his conversation partner, TED head Chris Anderson, may have made a lot of word salad, but both made very little sense.

Mike Masnick, Techdirt:

And, again, as anyone who has lived through (or read up on) the history of content moderation knows, platforms all went through this exact process. The process that Musk thinks no one has actually done. They all started with a fundamental default towards allowing more speech and moderating less. And they all realized over time that it’s a lot more nuanced than that.

They all realized that there are massive trade-offs to every decision, but that some decisions still need to be made in order to stop “making the product worse” and to figure out ways to build “maximal trust” and to be “broadly inclusive.” In other words, for all of Musk’s complaining, Twitter has already done all the work he seems to pretend it hasn’t done. And his “solution” is to go back to square one while ignoring all the people who learned about the pitfalls, challenges, nuances, and trade-offs of the various approaches to dealing with these things… and to pretend that no one has done any work in this area.

Masnick links to an excellent paper called “The New Governors” (PDF) by Kate Klonick in the Harvard Law Review. I am a little embarrassed to admit I had not heard of this paper before today, given how often this topic has come up. But I knew as soon as I finished it that it is essential reading for anyone thinking about moderation in any context. It is less than eighty pages; it is worth taking time to read it for yourself. It can help avoid embarrassing ideas about how online platforms work or how they ought to work.

Update: The more I think about this situation, the more it feels like an unforced pain in the ass that is no good for anybody. What are the outcomes here? Maybe Twitter is acquired by Musk, he finds it a huge burden and has no idea what he has gotten himself into, and tries to get rid of it. Maybe he realizes he has to get out of this thing before it gets too out of hand? Well, Twitter’s stock prices will collapse — for how long, who knows? — and it makes shareholders nervous. Different sets of users are skeptical either way. What a mess.