Elon Tells Twitter Employees: Make It Less Boring, More Like TikTok

Elon Tells Twitter Employees: Make It Less Boring, More Like TikTok
Photo: Christian Marquardt - Pool, Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk spoke to Twitter employees en masse for the first time on a call Thursday to answer their questions on his anticipated $US44 ($61) billion purchase of the company. While the world’s richest man offered some insight into his managerial style, he didn’t seem keen to grant workers much comfort or hope for the future, and he gave an outline of what direction the company would take.

The Washington Post reporters who listened in to Musk’s hour-long town hall wrote that when asked about his priorities for the company, he said it would be profit: Twitter’s revenue is current higher than costs, and employees would need to make the company more productive, he said. He said he would want to take Twitter private if he goes through with the purchase, according to The New York Times. However, he added he was not 100% on whether he would be CEO if the deal goes through.

His focus would also be making sure people don’t see “boring” content, pointing to TikTok for an example of an effective platform, he said. One of the flaws he sees with Twitter is that more content creators prefer sites like YouTube, and that other sites monetise content better than Twitter. “We should allow people to say what they want,” he said according to the Times.

When asked about his remarks hinting at layoffs, Musk said he runs his companies on a “meritocracy,” adding “If someone is getting stuff done, great, I love them. If they’re not, why are they at the company?”

Will the deal go through? Bloomberg reported based on interviews with people on the call that Musk did not explicitly say whether he’s committed to the deal or not, though he was not specifically asked that question. Questions put to the SpaceX CEO were first passed through management and read to Musk via Twitter’s head of marketing Leslie Berland.

Another big question is whether Musk will do away with Twitter’s most recent attempts at content moderation. He has previously said he doesn’t believe in permanent bans and would let some accounts like former President Donald Trump back on the platform, much to the chagrin of employees who have championed efforts against disinformation.

Musk, a self-described free speech absolutist, said that users should be able to say “pretty outrageous things.” The SpaceX CEO doesn’t want users to be “harassed or uncomfortable” as that would lose users, according to the Post, enshrining that freedom of speech “doesn’t mean freedom of reach.”

When asked about diversity at the company, the Times reported Musk said he wants “at least a billion people on Twitter,” which to him is the definition of inclusivity.

Twitter has a large blanket work-from-home policy that employees are very protective over, whereas Musk has told Tesla employees they must be in the office 40 hours a week if they want to continue working under him. Bloomberg reported that Twitter staff asked the prospective buyer whether they can continue with remote work, but Musk was adamant that only “excellent contributors” should be able to work remotely. He apparently wants his company to be more like Tesla or SpaceX, where stock options are available for compensation.

Musk, an avid Twitter user himself, said that while “Some people use their hair to express themselves, I use Twitter.” He said that the media is “lying” about how the deal is going down since most of them are “negative.”

The billionaire also recently tweeted that he voted Republican for the first time, told employees he prefers “moderate politics,” and is “pretty close to the centre.” Yet he doesn’t have any qualms about allowing “extreme” views on the platform as long as they don’t “violate the law.” The Post reported he said “the standard is more than not offending people, the standard should be they should be entertained.”