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Elon Musk’s Priorities for Twitter: Put Code on GitHub, Crack Down on Crypto Spam

In an extensive TED interview, Musk laid out his plan of attack for changes to Twitter if his buyout bid is successful.

4 min read
Elon Musk and Twitter. Image: Shutterstock

In brief

  • Musk has filed paperwork with the SEC to buy Twitter.
  • He talked today about what he wants to see change at the social media company.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shook up the tech, finance, and crypto sectors all at once on Thursday morning when he announced an offer to acquire Twitter for $54.20 per share, or about $43 billion. 

Appearing onstage at Ted2022 in Vancouver, Canada, later in the day on Thursday, Musk explained why.

"I think it's important to be an inclusive arena for free speech," Musk said. "Twitter has become the de facto town square, and it's really important that people have both the reality and perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law."

Musk said his plans for the platform include making the Twitter source code open-source to be subject to public scrutiny. "The code should be on GitHub so it can be examined," he said. "I just think it's important to the function of democracy in the United States and other countries. The civilizational risk is decreased if we can increase the trust in Twitter as a public platform."

After polling Twitter users last week on whether they want an edit button, Musk said he wouldn't be personally editing his own tweets, but the public should know if someone did. 

When asked how an edit feature would work, Musk said he envisions a certain amount of time for edits to be possible, and that retweets and responses would reset—to remove the chance that an edited tweet would appear to have the same reactions as the original tweet.

The tech titan, who has gotten into trouble with the SEC multiple times for his tweets, has called himself a free speech absolutist but acknowledged that there are limitations for what a centralized company can allow. 

"There are some limits on free speech in the U.S., and Twitter would have to abide by those rules," he said. "In my view, Twitter should match the country's laws; there is an obligation to do that. But having no insights into what's going on behind the scenes can be very dangerous."

Explaining his view on what a platform that supports free speech looks like, Musk said, "A good sign of free speech is someone you don't like being able to say something you don't like. That is the sign of a healthy free speech situation."

Musk also took a moment to take shots at the SEC, particularly the San Francisco office. "I don't have respect for the San Francisco office of the SEC because they knew [Tesla's] funding was secured but pursued a public investigation anyway," he said, referencing his infamous 2018 tweet that he wanted to take Tesla private at $420 per share, “funding secured.”

Musk explained that at the time of the 2018 investigation, “funding was actually secured,” but also that Tesla was in a precarious financial situation. "The banks told me that if I did not agree to settle with the SEC, the banks would cease providing working capital, and Tesla would go bankrupt immediately." 

Musk likened the situation to "having a gun to your child's head," adding that he was forced to concede to the SEC, settling for $40 million in penalties.

Musk says that while he can afford to buy Twitter and take it private, he wants to retain as many Twitter shareholders as possible. He reiterated that he’d be buying Twitter for the good of the users, saying, "I don't care about the economics at all."

If the Twitter board does not accept his offer, Musk teased that he has a Plan B, but said he would discuss it at another time. 

If he does acquire the company, Musk says his top priority would be eliminating the spam bots that plague the platform. "If I had a Dogecoin for every crypto scam I see, I'd have 100 billion Dogecoins."

When asked if he regrets his repeated pumping of Dogecoin, Musk responded, “I think they’re fun, and I’ve always said, ‘Don’t bet the farm on Dogecoin.’”

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