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How Elon Musk Destroyed Twitter

Summary

Rising star New York Times technology reporters, Kate Conger and Ryan Mac, tell for the first time the full and shocking inside story of Elon Musk’s unprecedented hostile takeover of Twitter and the forty-four-billion-dollar deal’s seismic political, social, and financial fallout.

The billionaire entrepreneur and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has become inextricable from the social media platform that until 2023 was known as Twitter. Started in the mid-2000s as a playful microblogging platform, Twitter quickly became a vital nexus of global politics, culture, and media—where the retweet button could instantly catapult any idea to hundreds of millions of screens around the world, unleashing raw collective emotion like nothing else before. While its founder had idealistically dreamed of building a "digital town square," he detested Wall Street and never focused on building a profitable business.

Musk joined the platform in 2010 and, by 2022, had become one of the site’s most influential users, hooking over 80 million followers with his mix of provocative posts, promotion of his companies, and attacks on his enemies. To Musk, Twitter — once known for its almost absolute commitment to free speech — had badly lost its way. He blamed it for the proliferation of what he called the “woke mind virus” and claimed that the survival of democracy and the human race itself depended on the future of the site. In January of 2022, Musk began secretly accumulating Twitter stock. By April, he was its largest shareholder, and soon after, he made an unsolicited offer to purchase the company for the unimaginable sum of $44 billion dollars. Backed into a corner, Twitter’s board accepted his offer—but Musk quickly changed his mind, forcing Twitter to sue him to close the deal in October. The richest man on earth controlled one of the most powerful media platforms in the world—but at what price? Before long Twitter would be gone for good, replaced by something radically new and different, as Musk remade the company in his own image from the ground up.

The story of the showdown between Musk and Twitter and his eventual takeover of the company is unlike anything in business or media that has come before. In vivid, cinematic detail, Conger and Mac follow the inner workings of the company as Musk lays siege to it, first from the outside as one of its most vocal users, and then finally from within as a contentious and mercurial leader. Musk has shared some of his version of events, but Conger and Mac have uncovered the full story through exclusive interviews, unreported documents, and internal recordings at Twitter following the billionaire’s takeover. With unparalleled sources from within and around the company, they provide a revelatory, three-dimensional, and definitive account of what really happened when Musk showed up, spoiling for a brawl and intent on revolution, with his merciless, sycophantic cadre of lawyers, investors, and bankers.

This is the defining story of our time told with uncommon style and peerless rigor. In a world of viral ideas and emotion, who gets to control the narrative, who gets to be heard, and what does power really cost?

About the authors

Kate Conger

Kate Conger is a technology reporter for the New York Times. She writes about X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, and its owner, Elon Musk. In more than a decade of covering the tech industry, she has written about the underground world of hackers, the use of artificial intelligence in autonomous weapons and labour uprisings in the gig economy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Ryan Mac

Ryan Mac is a Los Angeles-based technology reporter for the New York Times. He has spent more than a decade reporting on wealth and power in Silicon Valley, first on staff at Forbes, and then at BuzzFeed News, where he was a senior reporter. He led the outlet’s deep reporting on Facebook, which garnered a 2019 Mirror Award and a 2021 George R. Polk Award.
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