Elon Musk chats space aliens and Twitter's future in company call

Billionaire aims for social network to reach one billion users with less advertising

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Elon Musk addressed Twitter employees for the first time on Thursday, expressing his view that the social media company would need to cut its headcount, but offering few other new details about his $44 billion planned takeover.

Mr Musk appeared via video call 10 minutes late to what turned out to be a freewheeling question and answer session moderated by a Twitter executive, in which Mr Musk mused about the existence of aliens and other space civilisations and his view that Twitter should help “civilisation and consciousness”.

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

“I think advertising is very important for Twitter,” Mr 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.'”

Mr Musk, who was expected to provide assurance to Twitter employees during his first meeting, did not 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.

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

“Right now, the costs exceed the revenue,” he said and added that “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 Mr Musk was not providing useful answers on his vision for the business and employee compensation.

The impending takeover of Twitter has been met with widespread scepticism and concern among the San Francisco-based company's employees, some of whom have worried Mr Musk will relax rules on certain content.

The billionaire told Twitter staff he believed users should be allowed to say “pretty outrageous things” on the site as long as the content is not illegal.

Twitter shares were down 1.5 per cent and Tesla shares slumped more than 9 per cent in afternoon trading.

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

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Updated: June 17, 2022, 6:15 AM