The techno-king of Twitter

Elon Musk wants to re-engineer the “public square”

The world’s best-known engineer gives himself another grand problem to solve

SWEEPING STATEMENTS about the future of humanity do not usually feature in discussions about leveraged buy-outs. But Elon Musk has never felt bound by convention. Asked about his plans to buy Twitter, a social network, and take it private—which were approved by the firm's board on April 25th—he went straight for the big idea. “My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilisation. I don’t care about the economics at all.”

Compared with its rivals—Facebook, Instagram and TikTok—Twitter is a minnow. But the deal matters. One reason is that Twitter’s size belies its importance. As a haunt of politicians, pundits and wonks, it does much to set the political weather—a digital “public square”, as Mr Musk put it.

Another is that Mr Musk made his name and his fortune by upending industries. This time, he will be grappling with a knotty problem of keen interest to governments around the world…