Twitter has changed significantly under Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla, as the world second richest one man instituted policies that promoted his vision of “free speech” while laying off thousands of workers, aggressively cutting costs and experimenting without considering whether his changes might break the site. Twitter has leaned toward a subscription model under Musk, offering its signature blue “verified” check marks to anyone willing to pay $8, and removing many of the privacy safeguards. moderate content aimed at impersonators and those who practice misinformation.
But Musk, the bombastic head of the social media site, has touted many of the changes he has made since buying the company in October and laying off more than two-thirds of staff in the following weeks. Layoffs, he said, “are not fun … painful.” Musk said Twitter is down to about 1,500 staff, down from more than 7,000. Musk also acknowledged problems, such as shutting down a Twitter data center in December, leading to problems with the company’s servers.
“It was a bit of a disaster,” Musk said, and Twitter rushed to take it back.
He called out Twitter’s open-sourcing of its recommendation algorithm, the site’s emphasis on video, and its resilience in the face of sweeping change. He said that Twitter is roughly breaking even from a financial perspective, that advertisers are returning to the site, and that Twitter’s usage and growth is pleasing.
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“Many predicted that Twitter would go out of business,” Musk said. “Their predictions didn’t come true … We’re literally on Twitter right now.”
Musk faced controversy over his tweet attacking Paul Pelosi in the immediate aftermath of his hiring.
The billionaire made the comments in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday night on the company’s live audio feature, Twitter Spaces. In the interview, Musk said Twitter will tweak a new label Twitter has added to accounts including NPR and the BBC that identify them as state-affiliated media — highlighting instead their reliance on public funding.
But Musk also countered that misinformation and hate speech are more prevalent on the site, after the journalist failed to cite a specific example of the phenomenon.
“You said you see more hateful content but you can’t name one,” Musk said, his tone agitated. “You just lied!”
The two continued to go back and forth.
“Give me an example! You literally can’t name one,” he said. “You literally say you’re experiencing more hateful content and then you can’t cite an example, that’s absurd.”
The Washington Post reported last month that Twitter was boosting hate speech on its “For You” page, the curated timeline where it recommends posts to users based on their interests. A Post analysis showed that accounts following those designated “extremist” or “extremist-associated” were subjected to hate-promoting tweets, including one tweet with a quote and picture of Adolf Hitler.
The topic changed to covid.
“Covid is no longer an issue,” Musk said.
As the interview continued, Musk – who appeared in a jovial mood – made repeated jokes including innuendo about Twitter’s name, and the idea of his dog running the company.
One of Musk’s most criticized moves came in December when Twitter adopted a policy banning the promotion of certain platforms outside of social media. Musk, in response to the fierce opposition, launched a poll on whether he should resign as CEO.
After users in a nonscientific Twitter poll declared he should, he said he followed through on that promise (because his dog was in charge.)
“I stood up,” he said. “I keep telling you I’m not the CEO of Twitter, my dog is the CEO of Twitter.”
“I said I would appoint a new CEO and I did and this is my dog,” he said later.
Musk faced renewed backlash this month after Twitter restricted engagement with tweets linking to newsletter site Substack, after it announced a feature that looked like a Twitter clone.
Musk, in the Space interview on Tuesday, also laid out his rules for avoiding controversies on Twitter.
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He said he probably won’t tweet after 2 or 3 am And he acknowledged the controversies his tweets have invited.
“Have I shot myself in the foot with tweets too many times?” he asked. “Yes. I need bullet proof shoes at this point.”
Musk said Twitter sought to turn one of its buildings, now vacant, into a homeless shelter, but the property manager of Twitter’s San Francisco office refused.
Meanwhile, Musk showed up confirm a news report that Twitter is gathering powerful computing hardware to pursue generative artificial intelligence, the field that has developed large-scale language models such as ChatGPT.
Musk, who also banned a Twitter account tracking his private jet during a series of controversies in December, has denied using the Twitter platform to make decisions that benefit himself.
He reserved some of his harshest criticism for those who predicted Twitter’s demise.
In the end, he said, “they were wrong.”