Twitter board agrees to $44 billion sale to billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk

ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy has the latest on Mr Musk's $44 billion purchase

Twitter's board has agreed the social media company will be bought by Elon Musk for $44 billion (£34.6 billion).

The Tesla CEO, the world’s wealthiest person, said he wants to buy the social media platform because he thinks it’s not living up to its potential as a platform for “free speech".

He says it needs to be transformed as a private company in order to build trust with users and do better at serving what he calls the “societal imperative” of free speech.

Twitter said it will become a privately held company after the sale is closed.

The social media company's CEO, Parag Agrawal, said in a tweet: "Twitter has a purpose and relevance that impacts the entire world. Deeply proud of our teams and inspired by the work that has never been more important."

Musk said in a statement: "Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.

"I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.

"Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it."

The deal was cemented roughly two weeks after the billionaire first revealed a 9% stake in the platform.

Musk said last week that he had lined up $46.5 billion in financing to buy Twitter, putting pressure on the company’s board to negotiate a deal.

Twitter said the transaction - which was unanimously approved by its board of directors - is expected to close sometime this year and is subject to the approval of Twitter stockholders and regulators.

Shares of Twitter Inc. rose 6% on Monday to $52 per share.

On April 14, Musk announced an offer to buy the social media platform for $54.20 (£40.80) per share.

While the stock is up sharply since Musk made his offer, it is well below the high of $77 (£60.45) per share it reached in February 2021.

Musk has described himself as a “free-speech absolutist” but is also known for blocking or disparaging other Twitter users who question or disagree with him.

He has spoken in the past about his disagreements with the platform's stance on deleting tweets and deactivating accounts claiming it infringes free speech.

In recent weeks, he has voiced a number of proposed changes for the company, from relaxing its content restrictions - such as the rules that suspended former President Donald Trump’s account - to ridding the platform of fake and automated accounts, and shifting away from its advertising-based revenue model.

Asked during a recent TED talk if there are any limits to his notion of “free speech,” Musk said Twitter or any forum is “obviously bound by the laws of the country that it operates in.

"So obviously there are some limitations on free speech in the US, and, of course, Twitter would have to abide by those rules.”

Beyond that, though, he said he’d be “very reluctant” to delete things and in general be cautious about permanent bans.

It won’t be perfect, Musk added, “but I think we want it to really have the perception and reality that speech is as free as reasonably possible."

Twitter’s board at first enacted an anti-takeover measure known as a poison pill that could have made a takeover attempt prohibitively expensive.

But the board decided to negotiate after Musk updated his proposal last week to show he had secured financing, according to The Wall Street Journal.Musk is the world's richest person worth an estimated $287.6 billion (£219.5 billion) according to Forbes.