Elon Musk BBC interview: Twitter boss on layoffs, misinfo and sleeping in the office

Running Twitter has been “quite painful” and “a rollercoaster”, Elon Musk has said, in a hastily arranged live interview with the BBC.

The multi-billionaire entrepreneur also said he would sell the company if the right person came along.

Mr Musk, who also runs car maker Tesla and rocket firm SpaceX, bought Twitter for $44bn (£35.4bn) in October.

The interview from the firm’s HQ in San Francisco covered the mass lay-offs, misinformation and his work habits.

But he admitted he only went through with the takeover because a judge was about to force him to make the purchase.

And he confirmed Twitter will change its newly added label for the BBC’s account from “government funded media” to say it is “publicly funded” instead.

During the conversation – in which Mr Musk tried to do the interviewing as much as the other way around – he defended his running of the company.

Asked whether he had any regrets about buying Twitter, the world’s second richest man said the “pain level has been extremely high, this hasn’t been some kind of party”.

Talking about his time at the helm so far, Mr Musk said: “It’s not been boring. It’s been quite a rollercoaster.”

It has been “really quite a stressful situation over the last several months”, he added, but said he still felt that buying the company was the right thing to do.

After building a stake in Twitter at the start of 2022, Mr Musk made a takeover offer. But Twitter later sued him after he tried to back out of the deal.

Things are going “reasonably well”, Mr Musk told the BBC, stating that usage of the site is up and “the site works”.

The workload means that “I sometimes sleep in the office”, he said, adding that he has a spot on a couch in a library “that nobody goes to”.

And he also addressed his sometimes controversial tweets saying: “Have I shot myself in the foot with tweets multiple times? Yes.”

“I think I should not tweet after 3am,” he added.

Asked about the decision to add a label to the BBC’s main Twitter account describing it as “government funded media”, Mr Musk said: “I know the BBC is generally not thrilled about being labelled state media.”

Earlier this week, the corporation contacted the social media giant over the designation on the @BBC account to resolve the issue “as soon as possible”.

“The BBC is, and always has been, independent. We are funded by the British public through the licence fee,” it said.

Mr Musk said Twitter was adjusting the label for the BBC to “publicly-funded”. The change was made several hours later, but the new label was still linking through to a page with information about government and state-affiliated media.

“We’re trying to be accurate,” he said.

“I actually do have a lot of respect for the BBC,” he added, stating that the interview was “a good opportunity to ask some questions” and “to get some feedback on what we should be doing different”.

The BBC is the UK’s national broadcaster and operates through a Royal Charter agreed with the government. It is funded by a licence fee paid by UK households – accounting for £3.8bn ($4.7bn) in 2022, about 71% of the BBC’s total income of £5.3bn.

The rest of the funding comes from its commercial and other activities like grants, royalties and rental income. The BBC also receives more than £90m per year from the government to support the BBC World Service, which predominantly serves non-UK audiences.

Discussing Twitter’s finances, Mr Musk said the company is now “roughly breaking even”, as most of its advertisers have returned.

He also said that cutting the workforce from just under 8,000 at the time he bought the firm to about 1,500 had not been easy.

He admitted he did not fire everybody in person, saying: “It’s not possible to talk with that many people face to face.”

The exit of many of Twitter’s engineers since Mr Musk bought the company has raised concerns about the stability of the platform.

He acknowledged some glitches, including outages on the site but he said the outages have not been for very long and the site was currently working fine.

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