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Elon Musk's meeting with Twitter staff: five things we learnt

June 18, 2022
technology

Job cuts, freedom of speech and alien civilisations were on the agenda

Elon Musk's first open discussion with staff at Twitter, following his signing of a $44 billion deal to take over the social media company, hinted at potential changes to come under his management.

A video recording of the meeting, in which the billionaire businessman appeared to be hosting the link from a kitchen, has been posted across the internet.

Here are five of the main things that he touched upon:

Views on freedom of speech

Mr Musk has already said he will reverse Twitter’s permanent ban on former US president Donald Trump if this acquisition of the social media platform is successfully completed.

Banning Mr Trump from the platform last year was a “mistake” and a “morally bad decision”, he said.

Mr Musk said his offer to buy Twitter came after frequent complaints about content censorship and a lack of free speech on the site.

However, this has led to concerns about how hate speech and policies to moderate content will be handled under his leadership.

In the video meeting, Mr Musk likened Twitter to a “digital town square, but much more than that as you can't fit that many people in a town square”.

For a functioning democracy, it is essential to have free speech, he said.

“It is free speech within the context of the law — I am not suggesting we just flout the law because we will get shut down. An important goal for Twitter is to include as much of the world as possible,” he said.

“We need to strike this balance between allowing people to say what they want to say but making them comfortable on Twitter. I am in favour of going as far as the law will allow us,” Mr Musk said.

Job cuts?

The company needs to turn its fortunes around as costs currently exceed revenue, “so that's not a great situation to be in”, Mr Musk told Twitter staff.

“There has to be some rationalisation of headcount,” he said.

“Anyone who makes a significant contribution has nothing to worry about. If someone's getting useful things done, then that's great; if they are not, then I am like why are they at the company?”

Remote work

He told Twitter staff: “Tesla makes cars and you can't make cars remotely; it has to be done in a big factory. There are some roles at Tesla where work can be done remotely, like say software or design.

“If somebody is exceptional at their job it is possible for them to be effective remotely. With Tesla, I requested that a manager confirms that someone is an excellent contributor, and if they do, they are allowed to work remotely,” he said.

“If someone is working remotely, they need to show up occasionally so that they can recognise their colleagues. You can't walk down the street and pass your colleague and not recognise them — that would not be good.”

Twitter plans, transparency and troll farms

During the call, Mr Musk touched upon his potential plans for Twitter and what it needs.

To build trust in Twitter, there needs to be transparency — “that's why I'm an advocate for the algorithm to be open source so people can critique it or improve it”, he said.

He said getting rid of troll farms and bots was incredibly important. Tweets and reactions could be prioritised for those who are verified.

“We need to improve the core technology, we need to improve the design,” he said.

“I have a great understanding of the product because I use Twitter every day. What I have less understanding of is bot / spam or anything that affects the monetisable daily user number.”

The businessman wants to have at least 1 billion people on Twitter, from 229 million at present.

Aliens

The world's richest man rambled into topics outside of business during the 45-minute call.

Speaking about Tesla and SpaceX, Mr Musk switched to an existential discussion, talking of sustainable energy and extending the “scope, scale and lifespan of consciousness as we know it”.

“It would be great to understand more about the universe, why we are here, the meaning of life, where are things going, where do we come from,” he said.

“Can we travel to other star systems and see if there are alien civilisations? There might be a whole bunch of long dead, one-planet civilisations out there that existed 500 million years ago,” he said, clarifying, however, that he has not seen “actual evidence of aliens”.

thenationalnews