Elon Musk pitched a vision to the Twitter staff of a one-billion-user platform, but was hazy on potential layoffs, free speech limits and what’s next in his chaotic buyout bid.
The Tesla chief talked of letting people say pretty much whatever they want on Twitter while at the same time keeping it a friendly place that users enjoy visiting.
While fielding questions in his first meeting with staffers, the Tesla chief offered no updates on whether he will go through with a proposed $44 billion takeover deal which he himself has called into doubt.
A transcript of the employees-only virtual meeting posted on the website Recode indicated Musk professed “love” for Twitter, joking that while some people express themselves with hairstyles he does so on the global messaging stage.
Musk said he wants to have “at least a billion people on Twitter” in what would be a massive growth for a platform that has about 229 million now. He told Twitter employees he favors moderate political positions, but that users should be able to say outrageous things.
He qualified that by saying that freedom of speech doesn’t mean intrinsic freedom for comments to reach far and wide. The Tesla chief has already made comments on how he’d run the platform — including lifting Donald Trump’s ban.
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“People should be allowed to say pretty outrageous things that are within the bounds of the law, but then that doesn’t get amplified,” Musk said, according to the transcript.
“We have to strike this balance of allowing people to say what they want to say but also make people comfortable on Twitter, or they simply won’t use it.”
Musk answered a question about possible layoffs by saying the company “needs to get healthy” when it comes to its financial situation.
“Anyone who’s obviously a significant contributor should have nothing to worry about,” Musk told Twitter workers.
He endorsed advertising and subscriptions as ways to make money on Twitter, saying ads should be entertaining as well as legitimate.
Musk talked anew about making money at Twitter by charging to verify identities of those behind accounts, then making verification a factor in which tweets get higher ranking at the platform.
Regarding Twitter’s policy of letting people work from home, Musk said it would be an option only for those proven to be exceptional at their jobs.
“The Musk Twitter all-hands call was the wrong call at the wrong time in our opinion,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a tweet.
“Lots of answers Musk could not provide given the fluid nature of the deal.”
Ives added that the virtual exchange spotlighted a contrast between the kind of culture fostered by Musk and the “Twitter DNA.”
Musk touched on his Tesla and SpaceX endeavors during the meeting, talking of sustainable energy and extending the “scope, scale and lifespan of consciousness as we know it.”
“Can we travel to other star systems and see if there are alien civilizations?” he asked rhetorically.
“There might be a whole bunch of long-dead, one-planet civilizations out there that existed 500 million years ago.”
His comments came a day after a Verge report that SpaceX employees shared a letter internally complaining that Musk’s behavior on Twitter is a distraction and embarrassment to the private space exploration enterprise.