Twitter CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday sat down for a spontaneous interview with the BBC at the social media network’s San Francisco headquarters, speaking about some of his regrets and offering a glimpse into how he envisions the future of the company about six months after he bought it.
Musk conceded he can sometimes be impulsive when it comes to posting on the platform. He has come under fire for several controversial tweets, including one in which he shared a conspiracy theory around the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Have I shot myself in the foot with tweets multiple times? Yes,” Musk told the BBC’s James Clayton.
“I think I should not tweet after 3 a.m.,” he continued.
The self-professed “free speech absolutist” purchased Twitter in October ― despite trying to get out of a $44 billion agreement to do so ― and quickly set about reshaping the company. He decimated its staff and publicly attacked his own employees. He welcomed back banned users including former President Donald Trump, who was kicked off the platform for instigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, as well as right-wing figures and other accounts blocked for misinformation. He criticized the media and spread misinformation himself.
Asked about how the first six months have gone, Musk replied: “It’s not been boring.”
He said managing the company has been “quite a rollercoaster,” but that overall usage was up and the site was performing well despite some outages and glitches. He claimed the company will be cash flow positive by the next quarter.
Musk said the hardest moment he faced in the past six months was closing down a server center at the end of last year, thinking it was redundant — a move that he described as “catastrophic” and which had to quickly be reversed.
“The pain level of Twitter has been extremely high,” he said. “This hasn’t been some sort of party. It’s really been quite a stressful situation.”
The CEO told the BBC the current headcount is at around 1,500, down from the roughly 8,000 people the company employed before he took over.
Musk reportedly agreed to the wide-ranging interview just a few hours before its start.
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO defended his company over the latest controversy around requiring Twitter users to pay for verification. Prior to his takeover, the social media platform applied the badges to the accounts of notable individuals and businesses to deter impostors.
Musk vowed to remove all legacy blue checks by April 20, after missing an earlier deadline he had set for the action for April 1.
Musk has already stripped The New York Times of its badge after a user notified him the newspaper didn’t intend to pay for it.
“I must confess there’s some delight in removing the verified badge from The New York Times,” he told the BBC. “That was great.”
He claimed that the goal of his verification strategy is not to necessarily create another revenue stream, but more so to “massively raise the cost of disinformation and bots in general.”
“My prediction is that any social media company that does not insist on paid verification will simply be overwhelmed by advanced AI bots,” he added.
Musk had attempted to get out of the sale agreement with Twitter, saying there was “material breach of multiple provisions” and that the company did not disclose information on spam bot accounts. But Musk told the BBC he moved forward in the end because he expected a judge would have forced him to complete the sale anyway after Twitter sued to enforce the agreement.
While he originally told the BBC he wouldn’t sell the company for the $44 billion he bought it for, he quickly switched his answer: “If I was confident that they would rigorously pursue the truth, then I guess I would be glad to hand it over to someone else.”