Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Elon Musk’s first meeting with Twitter employees left some questions unanswered

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Elon Musk, the new future owner of Twitter, spoke for the first time with the company’s employees in a question-and-answer session today. The meeting was intended as an opportunity for him to allay workers’ concerns after Tesla’s CEO publicly responded criticized the companyhis leadershipand the number of spam bots on the platform the past weeks. But Musk’s responses to some key topics, such as layoffs, content moderation, and remote work, have been vague. They probably did little to please employees who were concerned about Elon’s leadership, according to several staffers who spoke to Recode after the meeting and internal Slack conversations viewed by Recode.

“I love Twitter,” Musk said at the start of the meeting, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by Recode. Musk, who called in to the video conference about 10 minutes late, apparently from his mobile, added: “Some people use their hair to express themselves, I use Twitter. I think this is the best forum to be with a lot of people at the same time. communicate and get that message directly to people.”

During the meeting, Musk appeared to distance himself from a more absolutist stance on “free speech” on the platform. He said that while people should be entitled to free speech, they don’t necessarily have “freedom of reach,” meaning Twitter doesn’t need to bolster ideas like Holocaust denial on the platform. While his response on the subject has been more nuanced than some of his previous statements, it still seems unlikely that he will fully answer employee questions about exactly how Musk will change the company’s approach to moderating hateful and violent speech.

“There’s freedom of speech or freedom of reach,” Musk said. “And free speech is one thing, because now anyone can just go to the middle of Times Square and say anything they want, they can just walk to the middle of Times Square and deny the Holocaust, okay? You can’t stop them, they just do. But that doesn’t mean it has to — it has to be promoted to millions of people.”

During the 45-minute meeting, Musk didn’t go into too much detail about his tactical plans as a Twitter owner, giving casual answers about whether he has plans to lay off staff or force remote workers back into the office.

Twitter CMO Leslie Berland asked Musk selected questions employees submitted in the days leading up to the meeting, many of which were critical of or urged for more details about his plans to run the company. When asked what he thinks about layoffs at Twitter, Musk answered vaguely.

“The company has to become healthy. At the moment the costs are higher than the revenues. So that’s not a great situation to be in,” Musk said. “And so there would have to be some rationalization of the workforce and costs to make revenues greater than costs. Otherwise, Twitter just isn’t viable”

“Anyone who is clearly making a significant contribution should not worry,” Musk clarified. He similarly said that if an employee is “exceptional”, remote working is fine, but that the “bias is very much focused on personal work”.

Since Musk first made his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter in April, Musk has created a flurry of uncertainty about the deal, at one point tweeting that it was “on hold” due to concerns about the prevalence of spam bots on the platform. The move raised questions as to whether Musk attempted to renegotiate the deal at a lower price or tried to pull out altogether.

While some employees are excited about Musk’s arrival and hope he can help the company grow in size and profitability, the volatility surrounding the deal and Musk’s unclear concept of free speech have left many Twitter employees concerned about how he plans to. to interact with the platform once it’s done. being in charge.

“He shows a dangerous lack of knowledge about technical, policy and operational matters,” said a Twitter employee after the meeting, who has been given anonymity for fear of retaliation. “The problem is that that lack can adversely affect the entire world. This isn’t just about employees. Employees care about the impact of their product in the world.”

Musk, however, seemed confident in his ability to run Twitter. When asked what he knows about and what he should learn about the company, Musk said he gets Twitter because he’s a super user (Musk is one of the platform’s most followed accounts with 98.3 million followers).

“I’m definitely going to understand the product well because I use Twitter practically every day,” Musk said. “What I’m less knowledgeable about is, you know, this kind of bot spam or multi-user account — basically anything that impacts monetized daily user numbers is probably my biggest concern.”

Musk agreed to come to another Q&A with Twitter employees if there were more questions.

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