Elon Musk has held a question and answer session with Twitter staff, pitching a vision of a one-billion-user platform, but being hazy about potential lay-offs, free speech limits and what is next in his chaotic buyout bid
- Mr Musk did not offer Twitter employees guarantees about their job security or ability to work from home
- He said he wanted 1 billion users on the social media platform
- SpaceX employees say Mr Musk’s behavior is a “distraction and embarrassment”
While fielding questions in his first meeting with wary staffers on Thursday, the Tesla chief offered no updates on his $US44 billion ($62.4 billion) deal.
Yet in comments from the employees-only virtual meeting that lasted less than an hour, Bloomberg and New York Times reports based on leaks relayed his claimed passion for self-expression on the platform.
And said he wanted to have “at least a billion people on Twitter” — a massive increase on the 229 million users the platform has presently.
He has already made comments about how he would run the platform — including lifting former US president Donald Trump’s ban — but his words this time were addressed directly to workers’ concerns.
Mr Musk told Twitter employees he personally favored moderate political positions, but users should be able to say outrageous things, reports leaked from the meeting said.
He qualified that by saying that freedom of speech did not mean an intrinsic freedom for comments to reach far and wide.
Mr Musk answered a question about possible lay-offs by saying the company need “to get healthy” when it came to its financial situation.
He endorsed advertising and subscriptions as ways for Twitter to make money, saying ads should be entertaining as well as legitimate.
And he again talked about charging to verify accounts, and making verification a factor in which tweets get higher ranking on the platform.
Regarding Twitter’s policy of letting people work from home, Mr Musk said it would be an option only for those proven to be exceptional at their jobs, he was reported to have told the gathering.
Market not convinced
Mr Musk shocked the tech world in April with his unsolicited bid to buy out Twitter.
The board eventually came around to supporting his $US54.20 per share offer. However since then he has cast doubt on the deal by clashing with the firm’s leadership over user numbers.
Mr Musk has kept employees and Wall Street on edge over how the buyout saga will end.
Reports coming out of his meeting with staff appeared to leave the share market unconvinced about the buyout, with Twitter shares slipping more than 2 per cent in mid-day trades — far below the purchase price Mr Musk agreed to.
And the proposed sale is being opposed by critics who warn Mr Musk’s stewardship would embolden hate groups and disinformation campaigns.
US securities regulators have also pressed Mr Musk for an explanation of an apparent delay in reporting his Twitter stock buys.
For his part, Mr Musk has repeatedly raised questions about fake accounts on the platform, saying on Twitter he could walk away from the transaction if his concerns were not addressed.
Musk has ‘distraction and embarrassment’, SpaceX employees say
A group of SpaceX employees derided their flamboyant billionaire CEO as a “distraction and embarrassment” in an internal letter to executives.
Mr Musk has been in headlines and late-night comedy monologues in recent months for his quest to buy Twitter, a reported allegation of sexual harassment that Musk has denied, as well as crude comments online and a foray into political discourse.
“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” read the letter, which does not single out any controversy in particular.
Reuters was provided a copy of the letter.
“As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company,” the letter added.
The open letter, earlier reported by The Verge, was drafted by SpaceX employees in recent weeks and shared as an attachment in an internal “Morale Boosters” group chat, which contains thousands of employees, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In a list of three demands, the letter says: “SpaceX must swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.”
It adds: “Hold all leadership equally accountable to making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone” and “define and uniformly respond to all forms of unacceptable behavior.”
It was not clear who authored the letter or how many employees were involved in drafting it.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.