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Elon Musk’s Chat With Twitter Appears to Have Resulted in More Questions Than Answers

Elon Musk’s Chat With Twitter Appears to Have Resulted in More Questions Than Answers

Elon Musk spoke to Twitter employees for the first time this week, during which he reportedly told staff that they should “aspire to do things in person,” rather than work remotely, opined about free speech, and spoke in vague terms about his overall plans for the company. The Thursday town hall meeting, which comes as Musk’s bid to buy the company remains in limbo, was reportedly not well received from staff (CNBC reported the reactions on Twitter’s Slack to Musk’s comments were mostly negative), who for months have been watching the SpaceX and Tesla CEO pontificate about—and often disparage—their work on the very social media platform they’ve helped build. There’s every reason to believe that Twitter employees likely left Musk’s address with a lot more questions about the future of their workplace.

Musk’s sometimes unpredictable leadership style has come under scrutiny both internally and externally. The same day as his address to Twitter’s staff, a number of employees were fired by SpaceX for organizing an open letter critical of the CEO’s antics, according to The New York Times. In an internal company email obtained by The Times, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said the letter, which stated that “Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us,” had made some of the rocket company’s staff “feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied.” Shotwell went on to write that SpaceX has “too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”

While Musk reportedly didn’t have many clear answers for how he would impart change at Twitter, he did indicate things would be different under his leadership. His suggestion that Twitter employees return to the office is especially notable, as 1,500 of the company’s staff work from home, per Insider. The other 6,000 employees split time between the office and remote work.

“If somebody is exceptional at their job, then it’s possible for them to be effective, even working remotely,” Musk told Twitter staff. He continued, “If you’re walking down the street and pass your colleague and you don’t recognize them, that would not be good. The bias definitely needs to be strongly toward working in person.” This is not the first time he has voiced displeasure with the company’s remote-work arrangements. In an April tweet, Musk floated the idea of converting “Twitter SF HQ to homeless shelter since no one [shows] up anyway,” adding, “I’m serious about this one btw.”

During the 45-minute town hall, Musk, whose approximately $44 billion bid to buy Twitter was accepted by the company’s board in April but remains on shaky ground (Musk has repeatedly made comments that make it seem like he’s trying to back out of his offer), also outlined his vision to turn the platform into the world’s town square. To accomplish this, he called for growing the site’s user base to a billion active accounts and amending its community guidelines to allow for “pretty outrageous” content, per The Wall Street Journal. At one point, he referred to himself as the “technoking,” citing his title at Tesla, and noted that he expects Twitter’s employees to fall in line with his grand vision for the social media company.

Over the past two months, Musk has harshly criticized Twitter’s leadership and cited the platform’s issue with spam and bot accounts as the main reason why his deal to buy the company is “temporarily on hold.” But on Thursday, he assured company employees that he loves the site, per a report from Recode. “Some people use their hair to express themselves. I use Twitter,” he said. Musk also clarified his stance on free-speech absolutism as it pertains to Twitter: “Freedom of speech is one thing, because, like, anyone could just go into the middle of Times Square right now and say anything they want. They could just walk into the middle of Times Square and deny the Holocaust, okay? You can’t stop them, they will just do that. But that doesn’t mean you have to—that it needs to be promoted to millions of people.”

One employee who spoke to Recode took issue with Musk’s remarks, warning that he demonstrated “a dangerous lack of knowledge about [Twitter’s] technical, policy, and operational matters. The problem is that that lack could adversely affect the whole world.” Not all employees left the meeting disappointed, though. Another Twitter employee mocked his anti-Musk peers, telling Business Insider, “It seemed like some of my colleagues were experiencing ‘Musk-derangement syndrome’ again…. For me, the meeting motivated me and took me back to my north star of doing something well while I’m at Twitter.”

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