Elon Musk spoke to Twitter employees on Thursday for the first time since reaching a deal to buy the social network for $44 billion.
Tesla’s billionaire CEO discussed a wide range of topics, from his ideas for improving Twitter’s finances to the platform’s rules on speech to thoughts on life, the universe and the existence of extraterrestrials, according to a person who listened.
Musk logged into the meeting remotely, which was livestreamed internally. Twitter Marketing Director Leslie Berland asked a selection of questions submitted by staff.
Asked about his vision for the company, Musk said he wants a billion people a day to use Twitter. It’s ambitious. Only 229 million people use Twitter daily right now.
He deflected a question about whether he plans to become CEO, saying he doesn’t care about titles but plans to give a lot of information about where the platform is going. (Musk is already CEO of two companies: Tesla and SpaceX.)
He floated ideas to expand Twitter Company beyond its current addiction to advertising, suggesting that it could charge people to get “checked” with these blue checkmarks – a way to confirm their identity.
What wasn’t directly addressed, either by Musk or in questions asked by Berland, is whether the billionaire entrepreneur remains committed to buying Twitter.
In recent weeks, Musk has questioned the deal, tweeting that he was “pending” as he examined the prevalence of fake accounts and automated bots on the platform. He also suggested he might seek to lower the price he agreed to pay. (Global markets have fallen sharply since Musk agreed to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share, and some observers say Musk may feel like he’s paying too much.)
Last week, he threatened to walk away altogether, saying Twitter was not reporting on the issue. Twitter has since agreed to give Musk access to its so-called firehose, a real-time feed of more than 500 million tweets posted each day.
At Thursday’s meeting, Musk reiterated that robots are a big concern for him – but left no indication that he might change his mind about buying.
Since Musk sealed his deal to buy Twitter in April, his comments about how he would tackle the company’s toughest challenges have rattled some employees.
Musk defined his interest in Twitter as being about protect freedom of expression. He criticized the company’s rules against misinformation and other legal but harmful content. And he said he reinstate former President Donald Trumpwhich Twitter banned after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
Asked about his views on Twitter’s speech rules on Thursday, Musk reiterated his stance that the platform should allow all legal speech – a definition that critics say would open the floodgates to hate speech, spam and propaganda.
But Musk also seemed to acknowledge that some moderation of content is needed, saying people won’t want to use Twitter if they fear harassment.
He said Twitter should not promote harmful speech and users should be able to filter their own feeds. He said people want to see “entertaining” content, pointing to the wild popularity of short-form video app TikTok.
Asked how his political views might affect his leadership of Twitter, Musk described himself as a moderate who once voted for the Democrats. He said he voted for a republican for the first time this week in a special election for a congressional seat in Texas. (The candidate he voted for, Mayra Flores, won the race, but drew critical for social media posts using Qanon hashtags and casting doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election, according to the Texas Grandstand.)
The future of the company under Musk’s leadership was a high priority. Asked about the layoffs, Musk hinted they were likely, saying Twitter’s costs currently exceed its revenue. The business needs to “come back healthy”, he said, adding that he would focus on employee performance.
He was also asked about the future of remote working at Twitter, which was one of the first tech companies to allow staff to avoid the office at the start of the pandemic, and has since said employees can choose where they want to work. “still.” Earlier this month, Musk told Tesla employees they had to return to the office full time or be let go.
Musk said Twitter is a different company from Tesla and while it favors in-person work, it’s open to letting “exceptional” employees work remotely.
Toward the end of the meeting, Musk got off to a tangent about Twitter’s role in improving civilization and raising awareness, according to the listener.
When Berland made a joke about extraterrestrial life, Musk said he hadn’t seen any evidence that extraterrestrials existed.
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