Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that his offer to buy Twitter is about his desire to “increase the trust of Twitter as a public platform” — not about the money. “I don’t care about the economics at all,” he said at the TED Live conference in Vancouver on Thursday.
“My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization,” he said.
The comments come hours after Musk disclosed in an SEC filing that he’d made an offer to buy the social network for $43 billion, or $54.20 per share in cash. Musk said he believed in the company as a free speech platform, adding that it needs to be “transformed as a private company.”
“I think this will be somewhat painful,” he said.
Musk made his pitch that moderation decisions should be more transparent. He said he wants to open-source Twitter’s algorithm and create more openness so users can understand how their tweets are affected by the company’s decision making. “That action should be made apparent, so anyone can see that that action has been taken,” Musk said. “So there’s no sort of behind-the-scenes manipulation, either algorithmically or manually.”
Last week, Musk revealed he had acquired a 9.2% stake in the company, making him its largest individual shareholder. He was also offered a seat on Twitter’s board, but this week declined the position, according to Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal. Soon after announcing his stake, Musk seemed to signal his increased involvement with the company by tweeting out a poll asking his followers if they wanted an “edit” button for tweets, a long-coveted feature for some power users.
In the filing, Musk said that his takeover bid was his “best and final offer,” and that if it wasn’t accepted he’d have to reconsider his position as a stakeholder. “Twitter has extraordinary potential,” he wrote. “I will unlock it.”
But while Musk believes in ensuring Twitter stays committed to free speech and wants the company to make policy changes, “I won’t personally be in there editing tweets,” he said. Musk also noted that he hoped taking over company leadership would not be “too miserable” for him.
Musk has long been one of Twitter’s most prominent users, with 81.7 million followers. During the TED Live interview with Chris Anderson, Musk talked about his own use of the platform — which explains a lot. “I’m literally on the toilet or something like, ‘Oh this is funny,’ and tweet that out,” Musk said.
When asked if there was a “plan B” if Twitter declines his offer, Musk said, “There is,” but declined to elaborate. “For another time, I think.”