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A $1 Billion Plan to Boot Trump Off Twitter: Will It Work?

Aug 23, 2017

Former CIA agent Valerie Plame is leading an unusual campaign to boot President Trump from his favorite medium.

In a project titled "Let's #BuyTwitter and #BanTrump," Plame, who gained fame in 2003 after being outed as a spy by the George W. Bush Administration, wants to raise $1 billion through the crowdfunding platform Go Fund Me. It it's successful, the campaign would try to buy a "controlling interest" in Twitter—and close Trump's Twitter account.

On the Go Fund Me page, Plame says shutting the account is necessary partly to ensure the President's bombastic tweeting habits don't start a war with North Korea:

It’s time to shut him down. The bad news is Twitter has ignored growing calls to enforce their own community standards and delete Trump's account. The good news is we can make that decision for them.

Twitter is a publicly traded company. Shares = power. This GoFundMe will fund the purchase of a controlling interest in Twitter. At the current market rate that would require over a billion dollars — but that's a small price to pay to take away Trump's most powerful megaphone and prevent a horrific nuclear war.

Whatever you think of Trump and his Twitter habit, Plame's idea is certainly a novel one. But could it possibly work?

Probably not for a couple of reasons. First, it's hard enough to raise $1 million on a crowdfunding platform, while $1 billion is unheard of. As of Wednesday afternoon, the project had raised about $23,500—though the pace of donations (most of them very modest) began picking up after the campaign started trending on Go Fund Me:

But in the unlikely event the campaign does raise $1 billion, it's far from clear this money would buy enough shares to force Twitter's board to pull the plug on Trump.

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Twitter's current market value is around $12 billion and, unlike Snapchat or Facebook, it did not create a separate class of shares with super voting power. This means the "Ban Trump" campaign would, in theory, control around 8% of the company.

In the case of a typical activist investor, an 8% stake would almost surely be enough to pressure a board into making changes. But such activists are motivated by improving the company's financial performance, which helps them persuade other big shareholders (pension funds, mutual funds and so on) to lend their support.

In the event of a "Ban Trump" resolution, those shareholders would likely be reluctant to join in a political campaign aimed at the President. Indeed, an attempt last year by Twitter shareholders to turn the company into a co-op, fell flat.

According to the Go Fund Me page, the money solicited by Plame, will be donated to the anti-war group Project Zero if a board fight is unsuccessful.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the "Ban Trump" campaign.

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