Washington, DC — Today, a diverse coalition of nonprofit advocacy organizations launched “Stop The Deal” – a multifaceted campaign designed to upend Elon Musk’s hostile takeover of Twitter, and stave off the myriad harms inherent to Musk’s vision. The effort will utilize all points of leverage, including legal and regulatory mechanisms, strategic engagement with key stakeholders like advertisers and investors, and ongoing grassroots education and mobilization.
The launch comes as Musk exhibits increasingly erratic and potentially unlawful behavior in his attempt to purchase the social media giant – a deal that could have swift and devastating impacts on our information ecosystem if consummated, threatening the basic safeguards Twitter has established to mitigate the real-world harms it can drive.
“Elon Musk is a wolf in expensive sheep’s clothing whose Twitter takeover is motivated by ego and grievance,” said Nicole Gill, Executive Director of Accountable Tech. “Musk doesn’t care about Twitter’s users or employees; he doesn’t care about shareholders or advertisers; he doesn’t care about following the law or advancing the public good. Elon Musk only cares about Elon Musk. If we don’t stop this deal, he’ll hand a megaphone to demagogues and extremists, who will cheer him as they incite more hate, harm, and harassment.”
“Elon Musk’s free speech fundamentalism forces women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups to pay the price for the ‘free’ speech of misogynists, white supremacists, bigots, and so on,” said Imran Ahmed, Chief Executive for the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH). “A platform that fosters a ‘safe space’ for serial abusers is a dangerous environment for everyone else.”
“Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter will not lead to more ‘free speech’ on the platform. It will simply lead to more extreme voices exploiting the platform to stoke hate, violence and harassment. Social media platforms that are nothing more than toxic cesspools of disinformation are harmful to our society and our politics. Twitter should reject Musk and this bad deal,” said Rahna Epting, Executive Director of MoveOn.
“A billionaire entrepreneur whose head is in the clouds and who thinks free speech means free reach will now control one of the most influential tech platforms in the world – what could possibly go wrong?” asked SumOfUs Campaign Director, Vicky Wyatt. “It’s time lawmakers pass tough new regulations that stop these Big Tech oligarchs from destroying our democracies and creating serious harm,” she continued.
“Elon Musk is one of the wealthiest, most powerful people on the planet. He does not believe that any content posted on Twitter, regardless of being factually inaccurate, violent, racist, or inflammatory, should be prohibited on the platform. This ideology sets a dangerous precedent for the future of social media platforms,” said Bridget Todd, Communications Director for UltraViolet. “Social media companies have allowed hate, violence, misogyny, and racism to go rampant for far too long. With more and more threats of violence online manifesting offline, platforms are finally listening to our demands for accountability in creating a safer space online for all people, but especially Black and Brown women and LGBTQ+ folks. We’re proud to be leading this fight with our partners to stop the deal and prevent Elon Musk’s dangerous takeover of Twitter before its too late.”
Given the monumental stakes and fast-changing nature of this situation, the Stop The Deal campaign will pursue multiple avenues of action, and will continue to adapt in real-time to seize opportunities to thwart Elon Musk’s acquisition. While not exhaustive, those avenues will include:
- Legal and regulatory action. Musk’s history of market manipulation and ongoing attempts to drive down Twitter’s share price, failure to properly fulfill various disclosure requirements, disingenuous claims in both public comments about the deal and official filings, and a raft of other seeming improprieties merit serious investigation. The campaign will seek to ensure that pertinent agencies and regulators utilize the full scope of their authority in reviewing this deal, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – which previously sought an officer-and-director bar against Musk for similar misconduct at Tesla – along with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Mobilizing shareholders. Elon Musk’s hostile takeover and his ongoing erratic behavior has left Twitter and Tesla shareholders alike extremely vulnerable. Tesla has lost roughly a third of its value since Elon revealed he had become Twitter’s largest shareholder, with fears swirling about Musk’s financial exposure and fitness to serve responsibly as CEO. Meanwhile, Musk effectively backed Twitter into a corner. Since his $44 billion deal was announced, he has falsely claimed it was “on hold” due to new concerns about bots, and openly mused about renegotiating the deal at a significantly lower price. The Stop The Deal campaign will engage in education and mobilization efforts to leverage concerned shareholders in this fight.
- Financial pressure. The campaign will attempt to make the deal financially nonviable by targeting major Twitter advertisers whose revenue is critical for the company’s bottom line. This builds on advocates’ recent letter calling on Twitter’s top advertisers to pull their advertising dollars if Musk fails to uphold basic platform safeguards, which would create massive brand safety risks for advertisers, in addition to driving sweeping societal harms.
Founding members of the #StopTheDeal coalition:
- Accountable Tech
- Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH)
- Fair Vote UK
- Friends of the Earth
- Global Project Against Hate and Extremism
- Media Matters for America
- Public Citizen
- The Sparrow Project