Since Twitter currently lacks a communications or PR department, it's not surprising that a BBC reporter just showed up at Twitter HQ after a casual and likely insincere invitation and corralled Elon Musk into a new interview.
Musk may not believe in the power of public relations, or he feels immune to the dangers of living without it because he's just that kind of billionaire. But a good PR person likely would have deflected some of the questions posed by a BBC reporter and kept some of these further negative headlines from spilling forth, had Musk hired one.
I said BBC could come Twitter, then, to my surprise, a reporter shows up— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 12, 2023
After a few days of not-great stories about Twitter, and while Musk is engaging in an ongoing war with NPR — apparently for no good reason — Musk seemingly got ambushed by a BBC reporter with a camera crew on Tuesday. Though, in true Musk fashion, he seems to be embracing it and reposting clips of the interview to Twitter himself — along with a retweet of a meme asking "Do you like BBC?" with Yes and No buttons. And, to be clear, the clip Musk seems to want to focus on is one in which he pushes back against the reporter about how much hate-speech or hateful content he personally is seeing on the platform.
"What hate speech are you talking about? You use Twitter. Do you see more hate speech? Because I don't, personally," says the man surrounded by a bubble of fawning followers, who has likely been shielded from much of the worst of Twitter behavior for years.
Musk then got testy with the reporter, James Clayton, saying, "You can’t give a single example of hateful content, not even one tweet, and yet you claimed that the hateful content was high. That’s false. You just lied." That's the quote that's been leapt upon by conservative media like the National Review, which ran the headline "Elon Musk Torches BBC Reporter."
San Diego's Institute for Strategic Dialogue responded on Twitter with some examples of white supremacist accounts being "verified," and noted the sharp uptick in antisemitic speech on the platform last year. But if Musk isn't seeing it in his feed!
Also, unshockingly, his fanboys on the right are cheering him for denouncing the BBC's coverage of COVID and vaccines.
Anyway, the New York Times and many other publications have caught and summed up the interview, with the pullquotes primarily being about how Twitter will get around to removing blue checkmarks from celebrities and other accounts shortly, and how Musk has found it "painful" to run the company thus far.
Also, Musk claims that Twitter would be cashflow-positive this quarter, and that after laying off more than three-quarters of the company, he saved it from the brink. He said the company is now "roughly" breaking even, and that advertisers were starting to return.
He did say it was "not fun at all" to have to conduct those thousands of layoffs. And, in some hint of regret about some of his online behavior, he said, "I think I should not tweet after 3 a.m."
"Have I shot myself in the foot with tweets multiple times? Yes," Musk admitted.
When Clayton pressed him on his pledge last year to step down as Twitter's CEO and hire someone else, Musk joked that he had, and it was his dog, a Shiba Inu named Floki.
When Clayton asked if he'd ever sell the company, he at first said "no," but then hedged, saying he would sell if he found someone else who was as committed to "free speech" as he is.
In some good news, Musk changed the label on the BBC's Twitter account to "publicly funded" on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning, Musk screenshot an email from NPR announcing that they were quitting Twitter over his designation of them as "state-affiliated media," tweeting "Defund @NPR".
Image via Twitter Spaces/BBC