Elon Musk Talks Free Speech, Layoffs, Remote Work in 1st Meeting With Twitter Staff

Elon Musk addressed Twitter employees for the first time on Thursday, expressed his views on free speech, layoffs, and remote work, but offered few other new details about his $44 billion planned takeover of the social media company.

In his first town hall event with Twitter employees since agreeing to acquire the company, Musk faced a series of questions about his stance on content moderation and reiterated his desire to allow all legal speech on Twitter, even when that includes so-called “lawful but awful” content such as extremism or abuse.

“I think it’s essential to have free speech and for people to be able to communicate freely,” Musk said.

However, Musk also noted that Twitter should work to prevent potentially harmful or offensive content from getting amplified so that users will be “comfortable on Twitter.”

“There’s freedom of speech and freedom of reach,” he said. “Anyone could just go into the middle of Times Square right now and say anything they want. They can just walk into the middle of Times Square and deny the Holocaust … but that doesn’t mean that needs to be promoted to millions of people. So I think people should be allowed to say pretty outrageous things that are in the bounds of the law but that don’t get amplified and don’t get a ton of reach.”

The Tesla chief executive, who is also CEO of rocket company SpaceX, told Twitter staff he wants to raise the service’s user numbers from 229 million to at least 1 billion people and said advertising would remain important for the company, despite previously saying he believes Twitter should not serve ads, according to audio of the meeting heard by Reuters.

“I think advertising is very important for Twitter,” Musk said. “I’m not against advertising. I would probably talk to the advertisers and say, like, ‘hey, let’s just make sure the ads are as entertaining as possible.'”

Musk, who was expected to provide assurance to Twitter employees during his first meeting, didn’t offer an update on the deal closing.

He reiterated he was still trying to learn more about bot and spam accounts on Twitter, which he called his biggest concern.

Elon Musks Twitter account
Elon Musk’s Twitter account with a Twitter logo in the background in Los Angeles on May 13, 2022. (Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images)

In response to a question about whether he expected layoffs, Musk said there needed to be “some rationalization of headcount and expenses.”

“Right now, the costs exceed the revenue,” he said, adding “anyone who’s … a significant contributor should have nothing to worry about.”

Twitter employees took to an internal Slack channel in droves during the session, posting memes and complaining that Musk was not providing useful answers on his vision for the business and employee compensation.

They also demanded on Slack that the moderator press Musk on his views about remote work, as Twitter currently allows employees relatively free reign to work remotely or in the office.

Musk said he believed Twitter staff should lean toward working in an office, but expressed willingness to make some exceptions. The bias should be “strongly towards working in person, but if somebody is exceptional, then remote work can be okay,” he said.

Musk dialed into the call wearing a white shirt and appeared to be sitting in a kitchen, according to a source who watched the call.

The CNN Wire and Reuters contributed to this report.