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Twitter shares rise on reports it will accept Musk takeover bid

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Musk dodges limits in Twitter board seat refusal: experts

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Elon Musk. — © AFP Indranil MUKHERJEE

Twitter shares rose Monday following reports the company is poised to accept Elon Musk’s takeover offer, a dramatic shift after the board organized a “poison pill” to ward off the billionaire entrepreneur’s hostile buyout bid.

The deal, which media outlets including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported could be announced later in the day, would put the Tesla boss in charge of the influential social media site perhaps best known for serving as a megaphone for former US president Donald Trump.

Representatives of Twitter and Musk worked through Sunday night to hammer out the deal, which could still fall apart, according to the reports.

There was no immediate comment from Twitter.

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and Musk were likewise quiet, although both had used the site to post updates about the deal.

Musk took a major stake in the firm earlier this month before making a formal purchase offer.

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“I think at this point, a deal seems, based on the glide path, to get done,” Dane Ives, senior equity analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in an interview on CNBC.

Musk last week lined up around $46.5 billion in financing to make the purchase happen, and Ives said, “The board couldn’t find a white knight, a second bidder. This basically put (their) back against the wall, they had to come to the negotiation table.”

Around 1435 GMT, Twitter shares were up 3.2 percent.

– ‘Poison pill’ defense –

Musk launched his $43 billion hostile takeover bid for the company, casting it as a promotion of freedom of speech.

While the firm’s board initially said it was reviewing the offer, it later rebuffed him and adopted a “poison pill” plan that would make it harder for Musk to acquire a controlling stake.

That defense kicks in if an investor buys more than 15 percent in shares without the directors’ agreement. Musk holds nine percent.

Last week, Musk — considered the world’s richest man due to the explosive popularity of Tesla electric vehicles as well as other ventures — said he had lined up financing for the deal and was “exploring” a direct tender offer to shareholders, a maneuver that would circumvent the company’s board.

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Despite Musk’s great wealth, the question of financing had been seen as a potential stumbling block because much of his holdings are in Tesla shares rather than cash.

In a filing, Musk pointed to a $13 billion debt facility from a financing consortium led by Morgan Stanley, a separate $12.5 billion margin loan from the same bank, as well as $21 billion from his personal fortune as being behind the deal.

Musk’s efforts have raised hopes about the commercial potential of Twitter, which has struggled to achieve profitable growth despite its influential spot in culture and politics.

But the polarizing Tesla CEO’s campaign also has sparked concern among technology and free-speech experts who point to Musk’s unpredictable statements and history of bullying critics, which contradict his stated aims.

Under Agrawal, who took over as Twitter CEO late last year, the company has made progress on new monetization features, such as subscription products, said a note from Truist Securities, adding that “short-term, Musk’s involvement at this stage runs the risk of disrupting those efforts.”

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UK teen died after ‘negative effects of online content’: coroner

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Molly Russell was exposed to online material 'that may have influenced her in a negative way'

Molly Russell was exposed to online material ‘that may have influenced her in a negative way’ – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Philip FONG

A 14-year-old British girl died from an act of self harm while suffering from the “negative effects of online content”, a coroner said Friday in a case that shone a spotlight on social media companies.

Molly Russell was “exposed to material that may have influenced her in a negative way and, in addition, what had started as a depression had become a more serious depressive illness,” Andrew Walker ruled at North London Coroner’s Court.

The teenager “died from an act of self-harm while suffering depression”, he said, but added it would not be “safe” to conclude it was suicide.

Some of the content she viewed was “particularly graphic” and “normalised her condition,” said Walker.

Russell, from Harrow in northwest London, died in November 2017, leading her family to set up a campaign highlighting the dangers of social media.

“There are too many others similarly affected right now,” her father Ian Russell said after the ruling.

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“At this point, I just want to say however dark it seems, there is always hope.

“I hope that this will be an important step in bringing about much needed change,” he added.

The week-long hearing became heated when the family’s lawyer, Oliver Sanders, took an Instagram executive to task.

A visibly angry Sanders asked Elizabeth Lagone, the head of health and wellbeing at Meta, Instagram’s parent company, why the platform allowed children to use it when it was “allowing people to put potentially harmful content on it”.

“You are not a parent, you are just a business in America. You have no right to do that. The children who are opening these accounts don’t have the capacity to consent to this,” he said.

Lagone apologised after being shown footage, viewed by Russell, that “violated our policies”.

Of the 16,300 posts Russell saved, shared or liked on Instagram in the six-month period before her death, 2,100 related to depression, self-harm or suicide, the inquest heard.

Children’s charity NSPCC said the ruling “must be a turning point”.

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“Tech companies must be held accountable when they don’t make children’s safety a priority,” tweeted the charity.

“This must be a turning point,” it added, stressing that any delay to a government bill dealing with online safety “would be inconceivable to parents”.

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