When Twitter agreed to sell itself to Elon Musk for $44 billion on April 25, the two parties agreed to specific terms of the merger, signed a document, and filed it to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Musk doesn’t yet own Twitter, and he won’t for many more months, but he is now locked into a contract with the social network’s current management, and there’s a $1 billion penalty at stake if he pulls out. The two sides also agreed to certain rules of behavior for the period before the deal closes. And one day after that agreement was reached, Musk already broke the rules.
What rule did Musk break?
Musk’s agreement with Twitter allows him to tweet about the merger “so long as such Tweets do not disparage [Twitter] or any of its Representatives.”
But on April 26, Musk tweeted what could be considered two separate disparaging comments about Twitter employees.
After Politico reported that Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s top lawyer and head of trust and safety, had cried in an internal meeting following news of the acquisition, conservative journalist Saagar Enjeti tweeted a screenshot of the article alongside the message: “Vijaya Gadde, the top censorship advocate at Twitter who famously gaslit the world on Joe Rogan’s podcast and censored the Hunter Biden laptop story, is very upset about the @elonmusk takeover.”
Gadde’s team, which is in charge of content moderation decisions at Twitter, briefly blocked a link to an October New York Post article about a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, son of soon-to-be-US president Joe Biden. It also temporarily locked the Post’s account. The laptop was eventually confirmed to be Biden’s, and then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey apologized, saying Twitter made a mistake.
On Tuesday, Musk jumped into the fray, in essence agreeing with Enjeti’s critique of Gadde. “Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate,” he tweeted.
Just hours later, Musk replied to a tweet by right-wing conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich alleging that Twitter lawyer Jim Baker, a former FBI general counsel, “facilitated fraud.”
“Sounds pretty bad …” Musk replied.
Elon Musk can’t stop tweeting
This is far from Musk’s first play at toeing the line on Twitter. As CEO of Tesla, his tweets led to a lawsuit from the SEC over what the regulator determined was a misleading tweet about securing funding to take Tesla private. In a consent decree, Musk agreed not to tweet about the company without a lawyer’s approval—an arrangement now known as Musk’s “Twitter sitter“—but he still often tweets about Tesla. Musk recently sued to change the terms of the settlement, but a federal judge in Manhattan upheld the Twitter sitter arrangement on April 27, signaling that Musk won’t be getting out of it any time soon.
While it’s unlikely Musk’s most recent tweets will have major consequences for him or the Twitter deal, they are further evidence that even a signed agreement—and the opinion of future employees—can’t keep the idiosyncratic CEO off his favorite platform.