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What Musk’s past tweets reveal about Twitter’s next owner

Three days before Elon Musk agreed to buy Twitter, the world’s richest man tweeted a photo of Bill Gates and used a crude sexual term to make fun of his belly.

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Playful, aggressive and often juvenile, Musk’s past tweets show how he has used social media to craft his public image as a brash billionaire unafraid to offend. They may also reveal clues as to how Musk will govern the platform he hopes to own.

“Look at the feed: It’s all over the place. It’s erratic. At times it’s pretty extreme,” said Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University professor who studies social media and who recently assigned Musk’s tweets as reading material for their students.

“It paints him as some sort of rebel leader who will take control of the public square to save it. That is a myth he has constructed.”

Musk joined Twitter in 2010 and now has more than 85 million followers — the seventh most of any account and the highest for any business leader.

He had mused about buying the site before he agreed on Monday to pay $44 billion for Twitter, which he said he hopes to turn into a haven where all speech is allowed.

“I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means,” Musk wrote in a tweet.

As the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Musk uses his Twitter account to make business announcements and promote his enterprises.

He muses about technology and trade, but has also posted jokes about women’s breasts and once compared Canada’s prime minister to Hitler. He regularly weighs in on global events, as he did in March 2020 when he tweeted that “The coronavirus pandemic is dumb.”

He’s also used the account to punch back at critics, such as when he called a diver working to rescue boys trapped in a cave in Thailand a “pedo,” short for pedophile.

The diver had previously criticized Musk’s proposal to use a sub to rescue the boys. Musk, who won a defamation suit filed by the diver, later said he never intended “pedo” to be interpreted as “pedophile.”

A few years ago, after software engineer Cher Scarlett criticized Musk’s handling of the cave incident, the tech billionaire fired back and she was soon being harassed by dozens of Musk’s online fans.

He later deleted the posts, but not before Scarlett had to lock down her account because she was receiving so many hateful messages.

“It’s ironic to me that somebody who claims they want to buy Twitter to protect free speech has such thin skin,” she said.

“He’s a very smart man, and when he replies to people that criticize him, he knows what he’s doing. To me that’s not championing free speech, it’s weaponizing free speech, and I think that’s what he’ll do owning this platform.”

Nineteen-year-old Jack Sweeney got Musk’s attention when he created an automated Twitter account that tracked the movements of Musk’s jet. Musk responded by offering Sweeney $5,000 to pull the account. When Sweeney refused, Musk blocked him on Twitter.

Sweeney said he’s worried he may get kicked off the site entirely if Musk’s takeover is approved. But he said he likes Musk’s free speech absolutism, and hopes he sees it through.

“He’ll make it more open, and I think that’s a good thing,” Sweeney said.

Musk’s use of Twitter has also led to problems for his own companies. In one August 2018 tweet, for instance, Musk asserted that he had the funding to take Tesla private for $420 a share, although a court has ruled that it wasn’t true. That led to an SEC investigation that Musk is still fighting.

More recently, Musk appeared to have violated SEC rules that required him to disclose that he’d acquired a five percent stake in Twitter; instead he waited until he had more than nine percent. Experts say these issues aren’t likely to affect his Twitter acquisition.

Last year another federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board, ordered Musk to delete a tweet that officials said illegally threatened to cut stock options for Tesla employees who joined the United Auto Workers union.

Those tweets helped cement Musk’s reputation as a brash outsider, a workingman’s billionaire, Grygiel said. But that doesn’t mean he is equipped to run a social media platform with more than 200 million users, the professor added.

“Maybe he wants to burn it down,” Grygiel said. “I don’t know. But I do know that it shows that no one person should have this kind of power.”

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Ukraine army denies claims Lysychansk is ‘encircled’

The Ukrainian army on Saturday rejected claims that Moscow-backed separatists and Russian forces had surrounded the key eastern city of Lysychansk, but said heavy fighting was ongoing on its edges.
“Fighting rages around Lysychansk. (But) luckily the city has not been encircled and is under control of the Ukrainian army,” Ruslan Muzytchuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Guard, said on Ukrainian television, after a separatist spokesman made the allegations earlier in the day.
Capturing the city would allow the Russians to push deeper into the wider eastern region of the Donbas, which has become the focus of their offensive since failing to capture Kyiv after launching their military operation in Ukraine in late February.
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Across the Donets river from Lysychansk, the Russians seized the neighboring city Sievierodonetsk last week.
Andrei Marotchko, a spokesman for the separatist forces, earlier told the TASS news agency: “Today the Luhansk popular militia and Russian forces occupied the last strategic heights, which allows us to confirm that Lysychansk is completely encircled.”
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China adds $45 billion in stimulus to pay for infrastructure projects

China announced another stimulus measure to finance infrastructure projects, part of its push to drive investment and increase employment in the second half of this year as the economy starts to recover from the effects of Covid lockdowns.

The government will raise 300 billion yuan ($44.8 billion) to finance infrastructure projects by selling financial bonds and other methods, the State Council chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided Wednesday, according to a report by the official Xinhua News Agency.

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Those bonds are usually sold by policy banks. The money will be used to replenish the capital of major projects such as new types of infrastructure, the statement on Thursday said.

These types of financial tools can help expand effective investment, drive employment and facilitate consumption and allow China to stick to its stance of “not flooding the economy with stimulus or over-printing money,” the meeting concluded, adding that this will help banks achieve a better match between their loans and deposits and improve the transmission of monetary policy.

The People’s Bank of China will take the lead to support China Development Bank and Agricultural Development Bank of China to raise the funds via financial bonds, according to a late Friday report by Financial News, a newspaper published by the central bank.

The top economic planner will come up with a list of projects for the investment, in collaboration with other agencies and state-owned enterprises, it said.

Infrastructure projects are a key factor in determining how fast the economy can grow in the remaining six months of this year as other sources of growth such as housing and private consumption are still slowing.

President Xi Jinping pledged last month to strive to meet economic targets for the year, although Beijing’s Covid Zero strategy has caused analysts to cut their forecasts for annual growth to levels far below the official goal of around 5.5 percent.

The announcement lifted the share price of heavy equipment makers in the onshore market. SANY Heavy Industry Co. climbed 4.1 percent on Friday, Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Co. gained 4.9 percent and Jiangsu Hengli Hydraulic Co. rose 1.9 percent, while the benchmark CSI 300 Index dipped 0.4 percent.

New Stimulus

The new stimulus can in theory leverage as much as 1.2 trillion yuan in credit from the banking sector and capital markets, based on the government requirement that the money should be at least 20 percent of overall investment, according to Nomura Holdings Inc. economists including Lu Ting.

But its impact in reality could be much smaller, and won’t be enough to plug an estimated 6 trillion yuan funding gap that the government has to fill if it wants to carry out its proactive fiscal policy, they wrote in a note Friday.

Local authorities are under huge financial stress this year due to the cost of Covid controls and tax cuts, as well as a slump in land sales that reduced a key source of revenue.

The new money is in addition to the 800 billion yuan the three policy banks were told in June to lend for infrastructure projects. That loan quota has already been allocated to the policy banks, local newspaper the 21st Century Business Herald reported Friday, citing sources it didn’t identify.

China Development Bank was allowed to boost lending by 400 billion yuan, Agricultural Development Bank of China’s quota for new credit was 300 billion yuan and another 100 billion yuan was assigned to the Export-Import Bank of China, the newspaper reported.

The development banks’ main source of funds is issuing bonds or loans from China’s central bank, although it hasn’t been announced where the money to finance these new loans will come from.

The size of the additional bonds is only a fraction of what the policy banks normally issue in a year. The banks sold a gross amount of 5.5 trillion yuan bonds in the interbank market last year, with a monthly average of 460 billion yuan, according to Bloomberg calculation based on Chinabond and Shanghai Clearing House data. Between January and May this year, they issued 2.3 trillion yuan in bonds.

The State Council, which is China’s cabinet, also vowed to implement a batch of investment projects that are aimed at increasing workers’ income and boosting their consumption.

These projects will have to spend more than 30 percent of central government funding on paying workers, up from 15 percent previously.

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UN condemns protesters’ storming of Libya’s parliament

A senior UN official for Libya on Saturday condemned the storming of the parliament’s headquarters by angry demonstrators as part of protests in several cities against the political class and deteriorating economic conditions.
Hundreds of protesters marched in the streets of the capital Tripoli and other Libyan cities on Friday, with many attacking and setting fire to government buildings, including the House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk.
“The people’s right to peacefully protest should be respected and protected but riots and acts of vandalism such as the storming of the House of Representatives headquarters late yesterday in Tobruk are totally unacceptable,” said Stephanie Williams, the UN special adviser on Libya, on Twitter.
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Friday’s protests came a day after the leaders of the parliament and another legislative chamber based in Tripoli failed to reach an agreement on elections during UN-mediated talks in Geneva. The dispute now centers on the eligibility requirements for candidates, according to the UN.
Libya failed to hold elections in December following challenges including legal disputes, controversial presidential hopefuls and the presence of rogue militias and foreign fighters in the country.
The failure to hold the vote was a major below to international efforts to bring peace to the Mediterranean nation. It has opened a new chapter in its long-running political impasse, with two rival governments now claiming power after tentative steps toward unity in the past year.
The protesters, frustrated from years of chaos and division, have called for the removal of the current political class and elections to be held. They also rallied against dire economic conditions in the oil-rich nation, where prices have risen for fuel and bread and power outages are a regular occurrence.
There were fears that militias across the country could quash the protests as they did in 2020 demonstrations when they opened fire on people protesting dire economic conditions.
Sabadell Jose, the European Union envoy in Libya, called on protesters to “avoid any type of violence.” He said Friday’s demonstrations demonstrated that people want “change through elections and their voices should be heard.”
Libya has been wrecked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country was then for years split between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by different militias and foreign governments.
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