Elon Musk: Twitter Spaces interview with BBC’s James Clayton highlights - what did he say about social media?
The surprise interview covered a wide range of topics and gave an insight into Musk’s management style
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In a last-minute, surprise interview with the BBC on Tuesday night (11 April), Elon Musk said that running Twitter has been "quite painful" and "a rollercoaster."
The multi-billionaire businessman also revealed that if the proper buyer presented themselves, he would sell the company. The live interview from Twitter HQ also explored his work habits, misinformation and mass layoffs - Musk defended his management of the company during the session.
Twitter was purchased by Musk, who also owns Tesla and SpaceX, in October 2022 for $44 billion (£35.4 billion). When asked by BBC North America tech reporter James Claygon if he regretted purchasing Twitter, the second-richest man in the world said the "pain level has been extremely high, this hasn’t been some kind of party".
What did he say about the BBC’s Twitter tag?
As part of the interview, Musk announced that his social media platform will change the BBC’s "government-funded media" tag after the broadcaster raised concerns about it. The BBC first contacted Twitter about the tag last week, when the designation was attached to the primary @BBC account.
Musk expressed his "utmost respect" for the BBC, adding: “We want (the tag) as truthful and accurate as possible – we’re adjusting the label to (the BBC being) publicly funded – we’ll try to be accurate.” Musk has previously described the BBC as “among the least biassed” news organisations.
The “government-funded media” label links to a page on Twitter’s help centre which says “state-affiliated media” are outlets where the government “exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution”.
The BBC has always maintained its impartiality and operates through a Royal Charter agreed with the government, which says it “must be independent”. Britons pay a £159 licence fee each year to fund the corporation’s output, which is set by the government but paid by individual households.
What did Musk say about blue ticks?
Musk also revealed that by next week, legacy blue checkmarks will finally be eliminated from the platform. According to a statement made by Musk last month, the blue ticks of legacy-verified Twitter users would be removed from the service on 1 April, unless they paid a monthly fee of $8 (£6.40) to its Twitter Blue subscription.
As a result, thousands of prominent users of the platform were preparing to lose the ticks that are used to confirm their identity and set them apart from imposters. But after 1 April, the blue legacy ticks are still present.
What else did he say?
Elsewhere in the in-depth interview, Musk claimed that Twitter is "roughly breaking even" now that "most" of its advertisers have returned to the site. Many advertisers stopped using the site after Musk took control of it, due to worries about the “free speech absolutist’s” handling of content and moderation.
“You can see [the increased advertising] for yourself on Twitter,” Musk said. “I think almost all of them (who left) have either come back or said they were going to come back. There’s very few exceptions.
“Depending on how things go, if current trends continue, we could be… cash flow positive this quarter if things keep going well.”
Musk also said of his early days in charge of the company: "It’s not been boring. It’s been quite a rollercoaster." He continued by saying it had been "really quite a stressful situation over the last several months", but insisted that he still believed purchasing the business was the best course of action.
He said that things are going "reasonably well" for Twitter, and that the website "works" and that usage is up, though admitted that due to his workload, "I sometimes sleep in the office," and that he also has a couch in a library that "nobody goes to."
Musk also commented on his occasionally contentious tweets, asking: "Have I shot myself in the foot with tweets multiple times? Yes. I think I should not tweet after 3am.”
He also said it had not been easy to reduce Twitter’s workforce from just under 8,000 when he purchased the company to roughly 1,500. It’s not practical to speak with so many people face to face Musk acknowledged, therefore he did not fire everyone in person.
Since Musk acquired the business, several of Twitter’s engineers have left, raising questions about the platform’s stability. He admitted some issues, such as site outages, but claimed that they had only lasted a brief period of time and that things were currently working well.
Misinformation and hate speech on Musk’s platform were also challenged as part of the interview, but Musk asserted that since the takeover, there had been less misinformation posted on Twitter, and that his attempts to remove bots, or automated accounts, will reduce fake news.
How did the interview come about?
High-profile interviews which cover a variety of subjects are typically planned out far in advance, but Elon Musk is renowned for being erratic.
He agreed to an interview with James Clayton on Tuesday night after the latter approached the head of Twitter to inquire about the BBC’s designation as "government-funded media" on the social media platform.
Usually, a member of the company’s media team would respond to a reporter, but Musk responded personally. Clayton seized the opportunity and requested an interview. The response was, "Let’s do it tonight."
In the end, Clayton and the BBC crew only had a few hours to prepare for an interview that was to be live streamed to three million users on Twitter in addition to the BBC’s audience.