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Elon Musk's texts suggest he'd soon make 'drastic' changes to Twitter

Now that Elon Musk has agreed to go ahead with his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter (TWTR), the mercurial Tesla CEO will likely attempt to make major changes at the 16-year-old microblogging platform — if indeed he follows through with his revived plans.

On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that Musk's lawyers said they wouldn't accept his renewed offer for the company. Earlier on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Twitter and Musk were negotiating the details of the deal and aimed to hammer out an agreement by Monday.

Musk's recently released text messages with fellow billionaires, family members, investors, Twitter executives, and others can provide clues into how he aims to transform Twitter if he does end up acquiring it. Importantly, they suggest he would plan to overhaul the company soon after the deal went through.

Musk's legal team handed over the messages as part of a lawsuit filed by Twitter seeking to force him to go through with the deal reached in April of this year after he reneged on it in July. When he backed out of the deal, Musk claimed Twitter hadn't given him enough data to determine the number of fake accounts, or bots, on the social media site. Twitter struck back in a lawsuit accusing the CEO of using the bots issue as a pretext for backing out of the deal.

Indeed, the text messages show Musk raised concerns about bots — which can spread false information on Twitter — before he struck the deal to buy the company. In those texts, Musk considers implementing a pay-to-tweet fee to tackle the fake account problem. As he's mentioned publicly, Musk also signals that he wants to relax content moderation and allow Twitter exiles like Donald Trump back on the site.

"Would be great to unwind permanent bans, except for spam accounts and those that explicitly advocate violence," he noted in one text message. In April, before he finalized his deal to buy Twitter, he texted that "drastic" action would be needed to fix Twitter.

Here are details on Musk texts that provide insight into how he would run Twitter:

A forum for 'free speech'

March 24, 2022: Musk to a recipient identified as "TJ" reported to be his ex-wife, actress Talulah Riley: “Maybe buy it [Twitter] and change it to properly support free speech."

The Tesla CEO also “liked” a message that day from tech investor Joe Lonsdale that had complimented one of Musk’s Twitter posts recommending Twitter's algorithm be open-sourced.

Lonsdale described Twitter as the worst of social media, due to its popularity as a news stream. "And this sh** is infecting the world,” Lonsdale wrote. “Please do something to fight woke-ism.”

“Absolutely,” Musk said in reply to Lonsdale.

April 6, 2022: Musk to veteran broadcast journalist Gayle King: “Twitter should move more to the center, but [CEO] Parag [Agrawal] already thought that should be the case before I came along.”

April 28, 2022: “Twitter is obviously not going to be turned into some right-wing nuthouse. Aiming to be as broadly inclusive as possible. Do the right thing for vast majority of Americans," Musk wrote.

Spam and bot control

March 24, 2022: “Crypto spam on Twitter really needs to get crushed. It’s a major blight on the user experience and they scam so many innocent people,” Musk texted.

April 9, 2022: Musk to Twitter board member and Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor : “Fixing Twitter by talking to [CEO Parag [Agrawal] won’t work."

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on August 22, 2022 shows Elon Musk (L) shows his Texas belt buckle as he speaks during a press conference at SpaceX's Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village in South Texas on February 10, 2022, and CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey (R) testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on September 5, 2018. - Elon Musk has served August 22, 2022 former Twitter boss Jack Dorsey with a subpoena in a hunt for material to help him get out of buying the giant social media platform for $44 billion as agreed. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Elon Musk and former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

April 9, 2022: Musk to Bret Taylor: “Drastic action is needed.”

April 9, 2022: Musk to Bret Taylor: “This is hard to do as a public company, as purging fake users will make the numbers look terrible, so restructuring should be done as a private company.”

Blockchain technology & decentralization

April 9, 2022: Musk to brother Kimbal Musk: “I have an idea for a blockchain social media system that does both payments and short text messages/links like Twitter. You have to pay a tiny amount to register your message on the chain, which will cut out the vast majority of spam and bots. There is no throat to choke, so free speech is guaranteed.”

April 9, 2022: Musk to brother Kimbal Musk: “The second piece of the puzzle is a massive real-time database that keeps a copy of all blockchain messages in memory, as well as all messages sent to or received by you, your followers, and those you follow.”

April 9, 2022: Musk to Kimbal Musk: “Third piece is a twitter-like app on your phone that accessed the database in the cloud.” Later, he texted, "This could be massive."

User bans

April 5, 2022: Musk: “Would be great to unwind permanent bans, except for spam accounts and those that explicitly advocate violence.”

Executive leadership

April 7, 2022: “Frankly, I hate doing management stuff. I kinda don’t think anyone should be the boss of anyone. But I love helping solve technical/product design problems.”

April 26, 2022: Musk also texted that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey confirmed to him that he had no intention of returning to Twitter. Musk to James Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch: “Jack doesn’t want to come back. He’s focused on Bitcoin.”

April 23, 2022: Musk to entrepreneur and angel investor Jason Calacanis: “Want to be a strategic adviser to Twitter if this works out?”

“100%,” Calacanis replied. “Board member, adviser, whatever…you have my sword.”

Rewarding content creators

In an April 23 text, Jason Calacanis recommended to Musk that Twitter could share revenue with video content creators such as those on YouTube.

“We could literally give video creators 100% of their ad revenue up to $1m then do split,” Calacanis said.

“Absolutely,’ Musk replied.

Paid Twitter memberships

In the April 23 texts, Calacanis also recommended to Musk that Twitter roll out paid subscriptions for individuals and corporations.

“Membership no one has tried really…so hard to estimate. 1-5m paid memberships maybe @ $50-100 a year. 250k corporate memberships at $10k a year?”

Musk to Calacanis (April 23, 2022): “You are a mind reader.”

On the day after Musk signed the merger agreement, Dorsey arranged a conference call for Musk to discuss next steps with Agrawal, the current CEO.

April 26, 2022: Musk to Jack Dorsey: “You and I are in complete agreement. Parag is just moving far too slowly and trying to please people who will not be happy no matter what he does.”

Editor's note: This post was updated to reflect new reporting on Twitter's negotiations with Elon Musk.

Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.

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