Elon Musk, speaking for the first time to Twitter employees, this Thursday, June 16, assured that he was aiming for a billion users on the social network but remained vague on key subjects in the eyes of employees worried at l idea that the potential buyer does not respect certain values of the company. After weeks of twists and turns, the entrepreneur answered many questions during a videoconference relayed in particular by the New York Times and the Bloomberg agency, via anonymous sources. The multi-billionaire reiterated that he aims to reach one billion users and diversify revenue sources. But he did not clarify how determined he was, or not, to buy Twitter.
Since the revelation of a first equity stake in early April, he has sent many contradictory signals on this issue, with tweets that are often critical and sometimes aggressive with regard to the platform where he is followed by more than 98 million users. Thursday, he expressed his passion for the social network, his favorite means of expression. But he is not satisfied with the financial results of the company and cited as an example the success of applications which belong to Chinese groups, TikTok and WeChat. “Right now the costs are exceeding the revenues. It’s not a great situation,” he said, according to the two news organizations. He would like the platform to be used by a billion people.
Less strict content moderation
Twitter had 229 million active so-called “monetizable” users, that is to say who can be exposed to advertising on the platform, in the first quarter of this year. “If Musk wants Twitter to be less ‘boring’ and more like TikTok, it could mean a major shift to video (…) much like other networks that have copied” the format of short, captivating videos, reacted Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg. Employees mainly questioned Elon Musk on his political vision and his intentions in terms of corporate culture and working conditions. In April, he said his priority was not profitability but the defense of freedom of expression. He again underlined the importance in his view of a less strict moderation of content, within the limits defined by law. Its design clashes with that of many Twitter employees, associations and elected Democrats, who on the contrary ask social networks to better fight against hate speech, harassment and misinformation.
Elon Musk, who tweeted on Wednesday that he was leaning towards the ultra-conservative Republican Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, for the 2024 presidential election, defined himself Thursday as a “moderate” in politics. He estimated, in the past, that Twitter was “politically left-leaning” because it was based in San Francisco, and should be “more impartial”.
Preference for face-to-face
His intervention comes days after he demanded that Tesla employees work at least 40 hours a week face-to-face or lose their jobs. A speech that contrasts with that of the current leaders of Twitter, who are committed to allowing the 7,500 employees to work entirely remotely. Elon Musk remained vague on this subject. According to the New York Times, he acknowledged that network employees do a different job from those who design and assemble cars, but reaffirmed his preference for face-to-face. Regarding his role, he indicated that he wanted to influence the strategic orientations and the improvement of the products. He did not specify whether he intended to lay off employees, but mentioned the consideration of performance. The meeting highlighted “the contrast between Musk’s culture and Twitter’s DNA,” noted Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.
“Source of distraction and shame”
The richest man in the world also annoys employees of SpaceX, his space exploration company. Several of them criticize his behavior in the public sphere, “a source of distraction and shame”, and call on the company to “publicly condemn” his way of tweeting, in a letter which must be given to the president of SpaceX, according to the specialized site The Verge. On the stock market, the price of Twitter remains much lower (30% less) than the price offered in mid-April by Elon Musk, a sign that Wall Street is not yet convinced. The leader of South African origin has secured the support of several large fortunes and investment companies to achieve the 44 billion dollars that this takeover must cost. But the fiery entrepreneur also threatened to withdraw his offer because of the number of fake accounts on the network, too many in his opinion.