Tesla and SpaceX owner Elon Musk had his first official meeting with employees at Twitter yesterday, where he answered some pressing questions. Musk is set to buy Twitter for $44 billion, though publicly he has said he needs more details from the company about its fake users. He has also tried to hint that a lower price might not be out of the question, though he insists he is committed to the deal.
He also said that while some people use their hair to express themselves, he uses Twitter and that it is also one way of escaping the ‘negative’ lens of the media. The Q&A session was nearly 48 minutes long and live-streamed to Twitter employees, though the live stream has now been posted to YouTube as well. Here’s a look at five points that stood out from the meeting.
Elon Musk clearly has some high targets for Twitter’s future growth. He wants the service to get to one billion users. Right now, the Twitter user base is around 330 million and it has been stagnant for a few years now. While platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp have crossed the one billion user mark, Twitter has struggled with user growth.
Just how Twitter will get to this magical user number is not clear. Plus Musk has also made it publicly clear he doubts the number of actual users on Twitter and is not convinced that only 5 per cent of the monetisable are bots or fake users.
It looks like one part of achieving this growth would be to make Twitter ‘more fun’, according to Musk. During the meeting, he brought up how WeChat from China was a super app and that users in China were practically living on the app. “ If we can recreate that with Twitter, we’ll be a great success,” he said according to The Verge.
He also praised TikTok, the short-video app which is a massive hit in the US market. Musk said TikTok was showing content which was “not boring” and keeping users engaged. What all of this means for changes on Twitter is not really clear at the moment, but obviously, Musk was hinting that perhaps the content showing up on Twitter is not as ‘engaging.’ He also said that more than worrying about offending far left or far right, the standard at Twitter should be to keep users “very entertained and informed.”
Musk is also keen on exploring subscriptions and payments on the social network. He talked about integrating payments on Twitter. There’s already Twitter Blue, which is a paid subscription the company is testing out. It is not clear how Musk plans to change or add new subscriptions. He spoke about Twitter Blue, and how even for those who pay for the service, their “identification in the system does not change at all,” and that it remains “like a normal user ID.”
He talked about a Twitter Blue authentication by Twitter Blue payments, though again it lacked clarity. He hinted those who are Twitter Blue verified could have more priority on the system. He also talked about how content creators need to be able to monetise content on Twitter as well.
Musk also spoke about content moderation on the platform–a topic where he has expressed several public statements on how he supports free speech. According to New York Times, Musk said, “We should allow people to say what they want.” He stressed it is essential to have free speech and that Twitter should encourage multiple opinions.
But he added that it needs to make sure that “we do not sort of driving narrative in order for people to have trust in Twitter,” and that transparency was important. He once again said that free speech needs to be within the context of the law.
“I’m not suggesting that we just flout the law, we will get shut down in that case,” Musk said. He also talked about freedom of reach, stating that people should be allowed to say “pretty outrageous things that are within the bounds of the law,” but, it should not “get amplified” or have a ton of reach. He also said that people would not be happy if they were being harassed on the platform and would stop using it and there needs to be some balancing.
He also said “trust is extremely important” and the platform will need to work to get rid of troll farms and spam bots.
Given that the Tesla boss has ordered employees at the firm to spend a minimum of 40 hours at work in the office, this was another question that was raised to him. Musk said that in Tesla’s case it was impossible to make a car from home and that Twitter was a different product. He said that people who are “exceptional at their jobs” can work remotely, though he’s clearly no fan of it.
When asked about layoffs and potential job cuts, Musk was non-committal. He did say that costs were more than revenue at Twitter, which does not look great. On Twitter, Musk has already posted about job cuts at Tesla and how there’s a recession coming.