Elon Musk, Twitter’s biggest investor, is changing course and will no longer serve on the company’s board of directors, less than a week after being appointed. Twitter CEO Parg Agrawal confirmed the revelation, which came after Musk suggested improvements to Twitter in a series of tweets over the weekend, including making the service ad-free. Ads will account for over 90% of Twitter’s earnings in 2021.
“Elon’s appointment to the board was scheduled to become formally effective on 4/9, however, Elon announced that same morning that he would not be joining the board,” Agrawal said in a republished message initially addressed to Tesla staff. “I think it’s for the best.” Musk’s apparent decision was not explained by Agrawal. He said that the board was aware of the hazards of having Musk, the company’s biggest shareholder, as a member.
However, the business “believed that having Elon as a fiduciary of the company, where he, like other board members, had to act in the best interests of the company and all our shareholders, was the best road ahead,” he wrote. Late Sunday, Musk sent out a few mysterious tweets, including one with a meme that said, “In all fairness, your honor, my client was in goblin mode,” followed by another that said, “Explains everything.” A following tweet depicted an emoji putting its palm over its mouth.
He now owns 9% of Twitter, prompting concerns about how he would attempt to change the social media network as its largest shareholder. Musk’s 80.5 million Twitter followers rank him among the most popular individuals on the site, rivaling music singers such as Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga. However, his constant tweeting has gotten him into problems on occasion, as when he utilized it to promote his commercial enterprises, mobilize Tesla supporters, dispute pandemic precautions, and pick arguments.
In one notable case, Musk apologized to a British cave explorer who claimed Musk had labeled him a pedophile in an angry — and then deleted — tweet by referring to him as “pedo man.” Musk filed a slander suit, but a Los Angeles jury subsequently exonerated him.
He’s also been embroiled in a long-running legal battle with the Securities and Exchange Commission over his Twitter behavior. Musk and Tesla agreed in 2018 to pay $40 million in civil penalties and have Musk’s tweets authorized by a company counsel after he tweeted that he had enough money to take Tesla private at $420 per share. Although this did not occur, the tweet led Tesla’s stock price to rise. Musk’s lawyer has claimed that the SEC is violating his free speech rights.
Musk has defined himself as a “free speech absolutist” and has said that he does not believe Twitter is upholding free speech principles — an attitude held by Donald Trump supporters and other right-wing political leaders whose accounts have been terminated for breaking Twitter content guidelines.
But it’s unclear what’s truly fueling Musk’s Twitter activity. Other concerns with the service include fighting for the public to be allowed to see Twitter’s algorithm, expanding the availability of “verified” Twitter accounts, and decrying a profile picture campaign employing non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
Musk has previously referred to “crypto spam bots,” who scan tweets for cryptocurrency-related terms before posing as customer service to empty users’ crypto wallets, as the “most frustrating thing on Twitter.” Twitter’s CEO and other board members have applauded Musk, implying that they would consider his suggestions. Since taking leadership from co-founder Jack Dorsey in November, Agrawal’s early moves have consisted of restructuring departments without making big changes. The firm has historically behind its social media competitors and has considerably fewer users.