With just a few hours’ notice, Twitter CEO Elon Musk proposed that the BBC interview him.
For a man so reticent to give interviews, this was noteworthy. It happened after BBC News technology reporter James Clayton emailed Twitter about the controversial label applied to the broadcaster’s account that it was “government-funded media”.
When Musk himself replied, Clayton asked for an interview, to which the Twitter CEO replied: “Let’s do it tonight.”
So, they did — live-streamed on Twitter from its HQ. And it was compelling viewing. It was fascinating to see Musk trying to explain his many inexplicable decisions and to see how disingenuous his tactics are.
At the beginning of the interview, he demanded that Clayton — who asked about “hate speech” — provide “a single example of hateful content. Not even one tweet. And yet you claimed that the hateful content was high. That’s false.”
As the BBC journalist stammered a reply that, “No. What I claimed…” Musk interjected: “You just lied.”
He added: “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
In terms of weirdness, it was downhill from there. After eventually giving up on point-scoring by attacking the BBC over misinformation, Musk said Twitter would be “adjusting the label to be ‘publicly funded’, which I think is perhaps not too objectionable? We’re trying to be accurate.”
After about 10 minutes, Clayton asked about Musk’s “first six months as chief executive owner of Twitter”.
With arguably the understatement of the year, Musk replied: “Well, it’s not been boring. It’s been quite a roller coaster.”
He said things were now going “reasonably well” and that “usage is up, growth is good. The site works mostly. You know, apart from a few glitches here and there, but the site is working fairly well.”
As Musk said this was with “a small fraction of the original headcount”, Clayton pointed out that there had been “several outages” and an engineer told him that “the plumbing is broken here and it’s on fire and there could be problems at any minute”.
Musk grumpily replied: “I mean, there have been a few outages, but not for very long. It’s currently working fine.”
Twitter was now “roughly breaking even”, Musk said. “We could be profitable, or to be more precise, cash-flow positive, this quarter if things keep going well. I think almost all advertisers have come back or said they are going to come back.”
Explaining how he got rid of most of Twitter’s 8,000 staff — down now to about 1,500 — he said: “I wouldn’t say it was uncaring … If the whole ship sinks, then nobody’s got a job.”
At least he showed some self-awareness and honesty. Asked about his many, many controversial tweets, he replied: “Have I shot myself in the foot with tweets multiple times? Yes.”
Musk added: “I think I should not tweet after 3am.”
Overall, he said: “Were there many mistakes made along the way? Of course. But all’s well that ends well. I feel like we’re headed to a good place.”
Two of the most bizarre things that occurred reveal something about Musk’s narcissism. At the end of the 30-minute interview, he suggested taking questions from Twitter, and proceeded to do that for another half an hour.
An exasperated Clayton finally said: “I’m done with this interview.”
And, when Clayton asked Musk if he still intended to step down as CEO, as he tweeted he would last year, Musk replied: “I keep telling you I’m not the CEO of Twitter; my dog is the CEO of Twitter.” BM/DM