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Elon Musk at a press conference at SpaceX's Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village in Texas on February 10.
Elon Musk at a press conference at SpaceX's Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village in Texas on February 10.Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images, file

Elon Musk wants to buy Twitter as Tesla's track record tanks

If Musk's leadership of Tesla is any indicator of how he'd run Twitter, there's plenty to be worried about.


UPDATE (April 15, 2022, 2:20 p.m. ET): Twitter moved Friday to block Elon Musk’s proposed takeover of the company, adopting a strategy known as a “poison pill” to potentially dilute his equity.

Elon Musk, the Tesla founder and social media troll, announced Thursday he’s made a bid to purchase Twitter outright.

The declaration comes nearly a week after Musk announced he had secured a 9.2 percent ownership stake in Twitter and just days after he reportedly rejected an offer to join the company’s board of directors. The latter move would have prevented Musk from owning more than 14.9 percent of the company, and a letter Musk sent to the board chairman on Thursday suggests the billionaire has bigger plans in mind.

In characteristic fashion, Musk seems self-assured — hubristic, even — about his abilities to improve Twitter. None of us should be nearly as convinced. 

There are all sorts of reasons Musk owning Twitter would be a disaster, as I explained in a post last week.

One of those reasons — the fact that his company Tesla has faced a wave of racial discrimination claims — has only been strengthened by recent news. On Wednesday, a judge rejected Tesla’s effort to have a multi-million dollar discrimination lawsuit overturned

U.S. District Judge William Orrick said the $137 million a jury awarded to a Black former Tesla employee named Owen Diaz in October was “unconstitutionally high” and reduced it significantly, but he agreed with the jury’s findings that Tesla workers engaged in discrimination, calling the company’s Fremont, California plant “saturated with racism.”

Diaz claimed he endured “daily racist epithets” from coworkers, and said swastikas and racist graffiti drawn around the plant went unpunished by higher-ups at the company. “This is not, as Tesla attempts to frame it, a case of ‘garden variety’ emotional distress,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

The state of California has also filed a discrimination and harassment lawsuit against Tesla. In February, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a suit after receiving “hundreds” of complaints from Tesla employees, alleging the Fremont plant is a “racially segregated workplace where Black workers are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in job assignments, discipline, pay, and promotion creating a hostile work environment.”

(In a statement posted online earlier this year, Tesla called the California lawsuit "misguided." It has previously pushed back on many of Diaz's claims, arguing that "facts don’t justify the verdict reached by the jury in San Francisco. )

In a separate discrimination lawsuit, a former employee at Tesla’s Lathrop, California plant said working there was like being “forced to step back in time and suffer painful abuses reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.”

And Tesla was also ordered to pay another Black man and former employee, Melvin Barry, $1 million last year after he filed a lawsuit claiming his supervisors at the Fremont plant called him the “N-word.”

Twitter has long had a problem dealing with anti-Black harassment and abuse on its social media platform. If Musk's stewardship of Tesla is any sign of how he’d run a social media company, then it seems possible Twitter under his rule could become even more uninhabitable for anyone who isn’t a white man like him.