Elon Musk discussed his stance on what types of content should be allowed on Twitter Inc.’s social network, saying that people should be allowed to say “pretty outrageous things” but that the platform doesn’t have to give those posts reach.
Musk elaborated on his beliefs Thursday during an all-hands gathering at Twitter, according to staff who participated in the virtual meeting. It marked the first time the billionaire, who is chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., has addressed Twitter employees since agreeing in late April to buy the company for $44 billion.
Twitter needs to allow more space for people to say whatever they want, Musk said, as long as it doesn’t violate the law. But he added that the company needs to balance that by making sure people “feel comfortable” on the service, otherwise they won’t use it, according to people familiar with the discussion. His goal is to expand Twitter’s user base to 1 billion users, he said. The company had about 229 million daily active users as of March.
Employees who attended the meeting said Musk—who attended the video call wearing a white button-down shirt and appeared to be joining from his phone—also talked about possible product changes, including the idea that users should have to pay to be verified as a real human user, through a tool like subscription service Twitter Blue. He also proposed that Twitter use verification as a way of ranking content on the platform. His goal is to “maximize usefulness of the service,” Musk said.
When asked about potential layoffs, Musk didn’t dismiss the idea, saying that Twitter “needs to get healthy.”
“Anyone who is a significant contributor should have nothing to worry about,” he added.
Twitter started allowing full-time remote work more than two years ago, and Musk was asked multiple questions at the meeting about the staff’s future ability to keep working from home. Musk said that the priority would be for people to work together in person, but if someone is “exceptional at their job” then it’s possible for those people to continue working remotely.
Many employees posted in an internal Slack channel as the conversation unfolded, and Musk’s comments about remote work being reserved for “exceptional” workers prompted a number of heated replies, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
Musk wasn’t directly asked and didn’t address the question of whether he is committed to buying Twitter. He has created concern over recent weeks that he was no longer interested in acquiring Twitter, or might want to lower the per-share price. First he said he wanted to put the deal “on hold” while he investigated the number of bots on the service, and later he sent a formal letter to Twitter executives saying he might walk away from the deal if the company didn’t do more to prove the size of its user base.
The Tesla CEO, who is also the world’s richest person, has publicly criticized Twitter’s products, executives and policies since striking the deal agreement, frustrating some employees who are concerned that he doesn’t understand the complexities of running a large social networking company.
Musk reiterated that he’s not against advertising as a model, noting that it’s very important to Twitter’s business, but that ads and subscriptions are both key to boosting revenue. He said ads should be entertaining, and he doesn’t want to let businesses advertise “bad products.” He told a story about how he recently bought a “scammy product” from a YouTube ad and it didn’t work as advertised.
“That’s totally not cool,” Musk told employees.
Musk was also asked if he plans to take the CEO role at Twitter. He didn’t give a clear answer, saying he’s not hung up on titles, but does want to “drive the product in a particular direction.”
“There’s a lot of chores if you’re the CEO,” he said. “I don’t really care what the title is, but obviously people do need to listen to me.”