Elon Musk officially terminated a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter on Friday, a move that would appear to dash the hopes of former President Donald Trump and his supporters that the social media platform would loosen content restrictions that have frustrated conservatives.
The move spurred fresh attacks on Twitter’s existing management, including from Donald Trump Jr., who said it showed that censorship is going to be alive and well.
“I can almost guarantee that whatever censorship they were doing will be back tenfold at this point. Zero chance of free thought or speech there at this point,” Trump Jr. posted on Truth Social, the social media site backed by his father.
Musk has repeatedly said that he would remove nearly all restrictions on what users can post, accusing Twitter of blocking free speech as it makes decisions about which content is too harmful for the site. He has also promised to reopen the platform to the former president — who was banned after encouraging his supporters to storm the Capitol as part of the Jan. 6 riots.
The announcement came via a letter from Skadden Arps attorney Mike Ringler on the tech billionaire’s behalf, which alleged Twitter was in “material breach” of “multiple provisions” of the initial agreement, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
It also alleged the company made “false and misleading representations” about the deal.
“Sometimes Twitter has ignored Mr. Musk’s request, sometimes it has rejected them for reasons that appear to be unjustified, and sometimes it has claimed to comply while giving Mr. Musk incomplete or unusable information,” the letter said.
Jason Miller, CEO of the alternative social network GETTR — which has been known for hosting extremist and conspiratorial content, argued in a statement that Musk’s takeover attempt — and the uproar it caused inside Twitter’s ranks — exposed a “politically discriminatory culture inside the Blue Bird.”
But Twitter says it isn’t over yet. The company vowed to take legal action and complete the merger for the original price, according to a statement from chair Bret Taylor.
“The Twitter Board is committed to closing the transaction on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk and plans to pursue legal action to enforce the merger agreement,” Taylor said. “We are confident we will prevail in the Delaware Court of Chancery.”
Whichever side breaks the agreement could be on the hook for a $1 billion fee.
All signs point to Twitter aggressively defending its position in court, according to a person with knowledge of the company’s thinking. Twitter has fully responded to all of Musk’s requests for information and doesn’t believe it has breached the merger agreement, the person said. The individual was granted anonymity to discuss internal company dynamics.
Angelo Carusone, the president and CEO of the left-leaning nonprofit Media Matters for America, however, blamed the deal’s failure on Musk’s “erratic behavior, embrace of extremists, and bad business decisions.”
Musk, he said, “was explicit about his intentions, which is why right-wing extremists celebrated the news.”
Questions over the status of the deal have been raised in recent weeks, spurred in part by Musk’s public comments questioning the social network’s claim that 5 percent of its daily active users were spam accounts. Musk alleges the number is a low estimate.
Musk’s filing comes the day after Twitter said in a briefing to reporters that it is now removing more than one million spam accounts per day — double the number of accounts that CEO Parag Agrawal said the company deleted in May.