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Buying Twitter ‘is not a way to make money,’ says Musk in TED interview

The billionaire made his first public comments about his Twitter takeover efforts at the TED 2022 conference

Illustration by Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images

Speaking for the first time since news broke of his attempts to buy all of Twitter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his offer had been made for the public good.

Musk emphasized that he was motivated by the public interest value of the platform. “Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square. So it’s just really important that people have both the reality and the perception that they’re able to speak freely within the bounds of the law,” Musk said.

Musk was speaking at TED 2022 conference in Vancouver; the interview was opened up for livestreaming earlier this morning.

To protect that venue, Musk went on to say he believes Twitter should “open source the algorithm” in order to build trust and ensure availability. “The code should be on Github so people can look through it,” Musk said.

Musk insisted that buying Twitter wasn’t an economic move for him.

“This is not a way to sort of make money. My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important,” he says. “So the future of civilization, but you don’t care about the economics at all.”

Musk fleshed out a few details of how he’d like to see Twitter change under his ownership. He also revisited the question of how an edit button would work best on Twitter. (Earlier this month, he made a Twitter poll about it, days before the company announced it was working on the feature.) As he envisioned it on stage Thursday, the edit feature would only be available to users for a short period of time after posting, and editing would reset retweets and favorites to zero.

Musk also got the opportunity to take a shot at Mark Zuckerberg when asked about speech platforms like Twitter being controlled by a single individual.

“You’ve got Mark Zuckerberg owning Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp and with a share ownership structure that will have Mark Zuckerberg the 14th still controlling those entities,” he said. “Like, literally.”

The interview began just hours after Musk offered to buy 100 percent of the social media platform at $54.20 per share in cash, valuing it at around $43 billion. He’s worth around $260 billion, according to Bloomberg, making him the richest person alive on earth. In the interview, Musk says he would want to retain as many shareholders as he can.

Musk had previously explained his reasoning for the takeover attempt in a letter sent to Twitter chairman Bret Taylor this morning, saying that the platform isn’t living up to its potential as a bastion of free speech.

“I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” he says in the letter. “Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it.”

It’s not clear yet whether Twitter’s board will approve Musk’s offer. The company has acknowledged receiving the unsolicited offer and said the board would “carefully review the proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interest of the Company and all Twitter stockholders.” The board reportedly met this morning.