Elon Musk pitched a vision Thursday to Twitter staff of a one-billion-user platform, but was hazy on potential layoffs, free speech limits and what´s next in his chaotic buyout bid.
While fielding questions in his first meeting with wary staffers, the Tesla chief offered no updates on his $44 billion deal that he has thrown into doubt in recent weeks.
Yet in comments from the employees-only virtual meeting of less than one hour, Bloomberg and New York Times reports based on leaks relayed his claimed passion for self-expression on the platform.
Musk said he wants to have “at least a billion people on Twitter” in what would be massive growth for a platform that has about 229 million presently.
The Tesla chief has already made comments on how he´d run the platform — including lifting Donald Trump´s ban — but his words this time were addressed directly to workers´ concerns.
Musk told Twitter employees he personally favors moderate political positions, but that users should be able to say outrageous things, reports leaked from the meeting said.
He qualified that by saying that freedom of speech doesn´t mean an intrinsic freedom for comments to reach far and wide, according to the reports.
Musk answered a question about possible layoffs by saying the company “needs to get healthy” when it comes to its financial situation.
He endorsed advertising and subscriptions as ways to make money at Twitter, saying ads should be entertaining as well as legitimate.
Musk talked anew about making money at Twitter by charging to verify identities of those behind accounts, then making verification a factor in which tweets get higher ranking at the platform.
Regarding Twitter´s policy of letting people work from home, Musk said it would be an option only for those proven to be exceptional at their jobs, he was reported to tell the gathering.
“The Musk Twitter all-hands call was the wrong call at the wrong time in our opinion,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a tweet.
“Lots of answers Musk could not provide given fluid nature of deal.”
Ives added that the virtual exchange spotlighted a contrast between the kind of culture fostered by Musk and the “Twitter DNA.”
– Market not convinced –
A would-be owner addressing the troops of a company he or she wants to buy is a routine part of the merger playbook, but Musk´s bid has been anything but ordinary.
He shocked the tech world with an unsolicited buyout bid in April for the platform that is a key exchange for news, entertainment and politics.
The board eventually came around to supporting his $54.20 per share offer, but since then he has cast doubt on the deal but clashing with the firm´s leadership over user numbers.
Musk has kept employees and Wall Street on edge over how the buyout saga will end.
Reports coming out of the meeting evidently left the market unconvinced about the buyout, with Twitter shares slipping more than two percent in mid-day trades far below the purchase price agreed to my Musk.
The proposed sale has stoked protest from critics who warn his stewardship will embolden hate groups and disinformation campaigns.
US securities regulators have also pressed Musk for an explanation of an apparent delay in reporting his Twitter stock buys.
For his part, 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.