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Elon Musk Spoke at TED Thursday About Twitter. Here Are the Key Takeaways

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO appeared on the stage just hours after making an offer to buy Twitter for $43 billion.

Zachary McAuliffe Staff writer
Zach began writing for CNET in November, 2021 after writing for a broadcast news station in his hometown, Cincinnati, for five years. You can usually find him reading and drinking coffee or watching a TV series with his wife and their dog.
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Zachary McAuliffe
2 min read

Elon Musk talks at TED the same day he offered to buy social media platform Twitter.


Elon Musk had a busy Thursday. In the morning, the Tesla CEO announced his offer to buy social media platform Twitter for $43 billion in cash, and in the afternoon he gave an interview at a TED conference to discuss what he wants to do with the site if he acquires it. One change he wants is for Twitter to open up its algorithm. 

"One of the things that I believe Twitter should do is open-source the algorithm," Musk said. "Any changes to people's tweets -- if they're emphasized or de-emphasized -- that action should be made apparent ... so there's there's no sort of behind-the-scenes manipulation, either algorithmically or manually."

Later, Musk said the algorithm should be posted somewhere like software development hosting platform GitHub, allowing people who see an issue or an error to highlight it and suggest a change.

Musk also said there should be very little moderation of what can and can't be said on Twitter, calling the platform the "de facto town square."

"I think it's very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech," he said. "In my view, Twitter should match the laws of the country. And really, you know, there's an obligation to do that."

Musk was referring to free speech protections under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, though that only applies to government censorship of speech. Twitter, as a company, determines what can be posted on its platforms, requires users to agree to terms of service when they sign up and can remove people who break its rules.

In the past, Musk has called himself a free speech absolutist; however, he has been accused of firing employees who disagree with him or who reported racial harassment in the workplace

Throughout his TED interview, Musk reiterated that he didn't have all the answers, but also suggested that permanent bans from the platform should be used very sparingly. 

Later in the interview, Musk explained his idea for an edit button on Twitter. He said he would make the edit function available for a short time once a tweet has been sent. That way, if you see a typo after hitting send you can fix it, but you wouldn't be able to change the message of a tweet days or months later.

When asked if Musk had secured funding to buy Twitter, he said he has sufficient assets to move the deal forward, but he also has a plan B if the offer doesn't go through.

After the interview, Musk tweeted that he wants to keep as many shareholders in privatized Twitter as the law allows, a sentiment he shared in the interview as well.

CNET has reached out to Musk for further comment.

Watch this: Twitter Shareholder Sues Elon Musk, Google Invests $9.5B in US Office Space