After months of speeding up and breaking things on Twitter, Elon Musk has been on a crash course of sorts over the past several weeks, appearing at a series of media events and doing the rounds of interviews with various media platforms ( Might be in the invite to TC though) lost in the mail…)
Yesterday, it was the turn of the WSJ, which featured him as its headliner to kick off the opening night dinner of its CEO Council conference in London. Dialing in over video, showing up late for his half-hour slot, Musk talked about Twitter (or “X slash Twitter” as Musk tried to call it), AI, Mars and more Talked for over an hour.
The announcement of the interview came just minutes after it was announced that Musk would be interviewing Ron DeSantis on Twitter’s Space Audio streaming platform on Wednesday (today), and in Musk’s words, DeSantis would make “quite an announcement” as part of it.
Everyone widely expected DeSantis to officially enter the US presidential race, which prompted WSJ’s EMEA editor Thorold Barker to ask Musk if he was endorsing DeSantis.
Musk avoided giving a straight yes or no answer, which says something else about him: He likes to talk in circles, and his strategy sometimes goes that way. Musk responded that he views Twitter as a “town square” where he wants everyone to participate. Yes, he wants to bring more spectators to the stage at a time when many people are seen running; But he wants to position Twitter as a new media platform in its own right.
Kasturi’s actions and words should sound eerily familiar. In fact, it often feels like he spent a lot of time tearing apart the company only to settle on an idea he was already trying to do: building a media company, which he does now. has been — complete with a new CEO with the advertising chops he bought from a media company, a strategy to court advertisers and create entertaining content.
“From the left, to the middle, to what’s supposed to be the right… I think it’s important that Twitter be about the reality and the perception of a level playing field, a place where all voices are heard, and Where there’s this kind of dynamic interaction you don’t really see anywhere else,” he said. “I mean, today on Twitter, for example, there was a debate between AOC and Ted Cruz, which, regardless of which side you agree with, was very entertaining.” (Audience laughter.) “I [would] Kind of a perfectly normal and sane person to actually be president,” he added later to more laughter from the audience.
For Musk, the Twitter story he wants to tell — or at least hopes to sell — is that Twitter is on a comeback trail from layoffs, internal restructuring, and big changes. And it’s amusing.
It’s hard to know how close that story is to reality at this point.
In the meantime, and before investors run out of patience, Musk remains equal parts puzzling and compelling. As Musk’s half-hour talk went on for over an hour, he ranged from talking about ambitions of making Mars a self-sustaining civilization to making him successful in any of his companies; The Political Situation in China through The Future of Humanity.
There aren’t many people who would be asked these kinds of questions in one go, and even fewer who would be interested in hearing their answers. Yet that’s what you get with this guy. Here are selected excerpts from the conversation:
Musk says he only has a part time assistant.
To an audience of CEOs and other executives “prescribed to within an inch of their lives,” as Barker put it, Elon described the chaos of being at the helm of three different companies, Twitter, SpaceX and Tesla. (No wonder he dreams building xOne everything app: It can help narrow down some of the work and the things it has to oversee.)
“My days are very long and complicated, as you can imagine, and it’s a great deal of context to change … Changing context is painful enough. But I usually try to divest companies, so It’s primarily a company a day, so today’s Tesla Day for example, although I may end up on Twitter late tonight… time management is extremely difficult. And this is going to sound weird but II’s Have only a part-time assistant…but I do most of the scheduling myself. And that’s because it’s impossible for anyone else to know what the priorities are. So since the most valuable thing I have is time, I schedule it myself. I do.”
Musk believes that civilization is less robust than people imagine, and that AI may hasten its destruction.
For someone who’s short on time, it’s interesting how bearish Musk is on AI. He touts the AI built inside Tesla as the best in the world, and he was an early parter in OpenAI, but he’s not a fan, it seems of artificial general intelligence, not least because it’s coming and getting out of control. “I think it is unnecessary for everything, but it is happening and happening very quickly. There is a risk that advanced AI either ends or hinders the development of humanity.
But don’t take any of that too seriously! Much later in the same conversation he contradicted himself by saying, “I No AI seems going to try to destroy humanity, but it may keep us under tight control, describing the scenario of AI “assuming control for the safety of all humans and all of Earth’s computing systems and Taking over weapon systems effectively like some kind of uber-nanny.
Musk claims that Twitter has gotten rid of hate speech and 90% of “scam and spam entrepreneurs” on its platform, which will make it more attractive to advertisers.
The pair touched lightly on Musk’s “courtship” of Linda Yacarino, who was named Twitter’s new CEO last week (she hasn’t stepped into the job yet). It seemed their conversation first started as a conversation about advertising, but Musk didn’t go into specifics about how, and when, it turned into a recruiting exercise. Instead, he changed direction to talk about how the company’s ailing advertising business is coming out of rehab.
“Linda felt it would be very helpful for advertisers to see me in person, so invited me to a conference in Miami, which was very helpful,” he recalled on stage with Yacarino several weeks before he was named CEO. About presence.
He said that while there, he “met with a number of advertisers in person to reassure them and show them that Twitter is a good place to advertise.”
He claimed that “hate speech has declined” and that “the quality of the system, especially with regard to scammers and spammers, is dramatically better than it was before… We’ve gotten rid of over 90% at this point.” Have found scams and spam entrepreneurs. It should be fairly rare at this point in time that you see a scam.
He also said it had figured out how to shut down bot farms, possibly to help improve authentic sentiment on the platform, although he did not explain why these were actually a problem for advertisers, for example. They were brigading in favor of it. a brand?
He says he and the new CEO will work together with moderation.
Musk has been pretty vocal in the past about free speech, and specifically saying what he wants to say, which doesn’t seem like it’s going to change going forward. While “the general principle is that the closer the law is. So for any given country, we will try to follow the law as much as possible,” the company is working on “closer controls that ensure that” if you for example Disney is for … so the content around [will be] family friendly. This is completely understandable.
MDAU was not a great metric.
The problem with “monetizable daily active users,” Musk said, Twitter’s self-defined metric that was adopted when it was a public company to describe its audience and how it was growing, “is a percentage of those users.” group … will see a notification on their phone, about a tweet, but they won’t actually click through to the site. Of course what really matters is the true user seconds of screen time. He said the company now tracks. “It’s based on screen time reported to us by iOS, Android and browsers.” Advertiser response to this measurement has been positive, he says.
Is there a limit to free speech – at least Elon’s free speech?
The topic of George Soros came up, particularly his characterization of Musk and the enormous amount of outrage and argument it generated. Elon doesn’t really think he should be reined in.
“I’m not going to tone down what I say because that would impinge on your freedom of expression. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with what I say… The point is to have different points of view. Free Speech is only relevant if it’s speech from someone you don’t like. Is that allowed? If so, you have free speech. Otherwise you don’t. And to those who would advocate censorship , I’d say it’s… only a matter of time before the censor turns on you. Easy to say, hard to see play out.
Twitter will recruit again.
The conversation on the topic of Twitter staffing then turned to an entirely different area — the unanswered questions about moderation and who is left to handle it, possibly the bridge here? With the company now down to about 1,500 employees from the 7,500+ employees he had when he took over last year, there are indeed a lot of questions about how well it can recover, build and grow. More people will be added, he said, at least if it plans to revive that advertising business and court larger advertisers. Oh, and make that “everything” app.
“We’re going to start adding people to the company, and we’ve already started adding some people to the company,” he said. “And, but it’s still going to be a lot of change. So but I think 1,500 is probably a reasonable number.”
On Twitter’s valuation.
“All’s well that ends well,” was his short reply when asked if he regretted buying Twitter. On ambitions/estimations that the company could be worth $250 billion after buying it for $44 billion, he described Twitter as “on a comeback”. He did not have an answer about whether Twitter could go public again, nor whether its headquarters would remain in San Francisco.
Content Moderation: Bad; AI Regulation: Good
Musk is fine with people speaking his mind, but he is less fine doing so with AI.
“I have been working hard for a long time and have met with a number of senior senators and congressmen, people in Congress at the White House, starting with an internal committee that is composed of independent parties as well as perhaps leaders in industry, to advocate for AI regulation. Se just spoke,” he said.
One area he is particularly concerned about is the presence of AI in social media. On the subject of the weaponization of AI, “the pen is mightier than the sword. So one of the first places to be wary of is the use of AI in social media to manipulate public opinion.”
He said this was one of the reasons he wanted to turn Twitter into a primarily subscriber-based system, “because it’s dramatically harder to build,” and thus more likely not to be an authentic person, or That’s why thinking goes. “It is 10,000 times harder to make an account with a verified phone number from a trusted carrier than it is to have a credit card and pay a small amount per month. And whether those credit card and phone numbers should be highly distributed, not clustered, is incredibly difficult. So whereas in the past someone could create a million fake accounts for a penny and then manipulate or make something appear to be well liked by the public when in fact it wasn’t, or get promoted and retweeted Used to be, when in fact it was not. The popularity isn’t genuine, it’s essentially gaming the system.
“So I think the bias towards membership-based verification is very powerful. And really, you won’t be able to trust any social media company that doesn’t do it, because it will go to such an extreme with bots.