Elon Musk takes over at Twitter, says ‘the bird is freed’

SAN FRANCISCO — Elon Musk took control at Twitter on Thursday as his $44 billion deal to buy the social media giant closed, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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The sale Thursday came on the eve of a deadline set by a Delaware judge for Musk to finalize the purchase or face a trial. The court became involved in the sale after Musk earlier this year agreed to buy the company and then announced that he planned to back out.

In a tweet late Thursday, Musk wrote that “the bird is freed.”

The Washington Post and The New York Times, citing unnamed sources, said that Musk, 51, fired several top Twitter executives after taking the helm at the social media company. Both newspapers identified the executives as Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief executive; Ned Segal, the chief financial officer; Vijaya Gadde, the top legal and policy executive; and Sean Edgett, the general counsel.

Musk, Agrawal, Segal, Gadde, Edgett and a Twitter spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment, according to the Times.

Three of the top Twitter executives were hastily removed from the building, the Post reported.

Agrawal had clashed with Musk publicly and privately in recent months about the takeover, according to the Times. Musk had also criticized Gadde for her role in content moderation decisions at the company, the newspaper reported.

“I don’t have confidence in management,” Musk wrote in his initial takeover letter in April, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Musk has said he plans to review Twitter’s content moderation policies with an eye toward an approach to more “free speech,” CNN reported. Musk said he also disagreed with the company’s practice of permanently banning users who repeatedly violate its rules.

In a letter posted Thursday on Twitter and addressed to advertisers on the platform, Musk said he bought Twitter “to help humanity.”

“The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence,” he wrote.

“There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide in our society.”

Musk told employees on Wednesday that he does not plan to cut 75% of the company’s staff, Bloomberg reported, citing unidentified sources. Earlier, the Post reported that Musk had told prospective investors he planned to whittle down the number of Twitter employees.

Musk showed up at Twitter’s offices on Wednesday carrying a sink to suggest that the idea of him becoming the owner of the company still needed to “sink in,” according to a photograph he posted to his more than 100 million Twitter followers, the Post reported.

The purchase comes months after Musk initially sought to buy the social media company and then said he changed his mind, citing concerns that the number of fake accounts on the site could be much higher than reported by Twitter officials. The company accepted Musk’s offer in April. Musk announced his intention to back out of the deal in July.

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