Technology

Musk says Twitter is ‘roughly breaking even’ after tumultuous takeover

Twitter CEO Elon Musk said the platform is “roughly breaking even” in a wide-ranging interview with the BBC about the status of the social media company since his October takeover. 

The financial woes for Twitter, which Musk purchased for $44 billion, escalated after an exodus of advertisers when his purchase was finalized. Since then, most of the advertisers have returned, BBC reported in the Wednesday story with Musk’s interview.

The early issue with advertisers is only part of the ups and downs Musk has faced since the acquisition.

Twitter’s changes under Musk — from peeling back content moderation measures to changing the platforms’ blue check mark process — have been met with a chorus of criticism from civil society groups, regulators, academics, Democratic lawmakers and, most recently, news outlets angered by Musk’s new labels. 

“It’s not been boring. It’s been quite a roller coaster,” Musk told BBC, about taking control of the company.

Asked if he had any regrets about buying the platform, Musk said the “pain level has been extremely high, this hasn’t been some kind of party.”

Musk’s brewing fight with NPR

NPR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Image

Musk’s latest battle is a fight with several news outlets over labels Twitter attached to their accounts calling them “government funded media.” 

National Public Radio (NPR) was labeled as “state-affiliated media” last week. The label is typically applied to outlets like RT and China’s Xinhua, which are directly controlled by government officials and lack the same editorial independence as U.S. public broadcasters.

The majority of NPR’s funding comes from private sponsorships and user contributions. NPR receives a smaller portion of financing from the federal government and member stations. 

Twitter reversed course over the weekend and instead labeled NPR, along with PBS and Voice of America, as “government funded media.” 

NPR said Wednesday it would quit using the platform over the change. 

“We are not putting our journalism on platforms that have demonstrated an interest in undermining our credibility and the public’s understanding of our editorial independence,” the outlet said in a statement to The Hill. “We are turning away from Twitter but not from our audiences and communities.”

The BBC has also pushed back on the label it was given. In a statement, BBC said “we are speaking to Twitter to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”  

“The BBC is, and always has been, independent,” it added. 

Asked about the label, Musk told BBC in the interview, “We’re trying to be accurate.”

“I actually do have a lot of respect for the BBC,” he added.

Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, said in a statement NPR’s departure from Twitter leaves the platform with “less reliable news and could foreshadow similar moves by other serious news sources.” 

“Overall, this sad development signals the continued deterioration of Twitter as a venue for meaningful conversation — a pity for all concerned,” Barrett added. 

A tumultuous Twitter takeover 

A sign at Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco, Dec. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

In one of his earliest moves as Twitter CEO, Musk slashed the workforce at the company. The workforce went from just under 8,000 to the time he bought it to about 1,500, Musk said in the BBC interview. 

The mass layoffs have even led to legal trouble for the company, with former employees suing over allegations Twitter violated federal and state rules about layoff notice. 

Musk told BBC the workload at Twitter means that “I sometimes sleep in the office.”

Musk’s other controversial changes were made seemingly as part of his vision to create a “free speech” platform, which largely meant lifting content moderation measures in place under Twitter’s previous leadership. For example, in November Musk lifted the COVID-19 misinformation policy on the platform. 

Another controversial change under Musk was reversing bans on users previously booted from the platform for violating policies. Most notably, Musk reversed the ban on former President Trump in November, as well, but the 2024 presidential candidate has yet to post on the platform since his account regained access. 

In recent weeks, Musk has angered critics over his plans to change Twitter’s blue check mark policy. The symbol once meant a public figure’s account was authentic, but under Musk users were able to purchase the symbol through a subscription to Twitter Blue.

The change is leading to concerns about the spread of misinformation and users paying to pose as public figures.

Updated at 3:18 p.m.

Tags BBC BBC Censorship Donald Trump Elon Musk Elon Musk misinformation NPR Social media Twitter Twitter

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