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Elon Musk takes a 9% stake in Twitter to become its largest shareholder

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Elon Musk is the richest person in the world. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is also now Twitter's largest shareholder. News that he took a 9% stake sent Twitter stock soaring. And he's shaking things up again. In a Twitter poll last night, he asked whether users want an edit button. NPR tech correspondent Shannon Bond reports.

SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: Elon Musk has recently used his Twitter account to share photos of SpaceX rockets and Star Wars memes, challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin to a duel for Ukraine and poll his 80 million-plus followers about free speech.

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN: Elon Musk might be the second-most successful crank caller of the 21st century.

BOND: That's Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia. He says the most successful crank caller is, of course, Donald Trump, who, like Musk, was adept at being the loudest voice on Twitter until it banned him. Recently, Musk has taken up a cause championed by Trump, as well as many of his own superfans, the idea that Twitter's limits on what users can say amount to censorship.

VAIDHYANATHAN: Elon Musk is one of a large number of loud men who are - have been annoyed by Twitter's policies over the years. He just has more money than the rest.

BOND: And now he's used some of that money to become Twitter's largest investor despite musing recently - on Twitter, of course - about creating an alternative social platform. So what does this mean for Twitter? Brooke Erin Duffy is associate professor of communications at Cornell.

BROOKE ERIN DUFFY: You know, Musk has been very open about, well, everything on Twitter. And so what sort of insight is he going to provide through his account on this company?

BOND: He could agitate for change. But Vaidhyanathan argues buying the stake might be the point.

VAIDHYANATHAN: Like, it's just a new way of trolling, right? It's, like, trolling with your own money.

BOND: Either way, it keeps Musk where he likes to be, in the Twitter spotlight.

Shannon Bond, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Shannon Bond is a business correspondent at NPR, covering technology and how Silicon Valley's biggest companies are transforming how we live, work and communicate.

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