Twitter Earnings Mark User Growth as Musk Takeover Looms

It's been a big week for the influential social network.

Elon Musk is preparing to buy Twitter, which just released its first-quarter earnings report.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Twitter continued to work toward an ambitious goal by adding users in the first quarter, an improvement overshadowed by the $44 billion deal Elon Musk struck earlier this week to buy the influential social media company. 

The social media site said Thursday that 229 million users, a 15.9% year-over-year increase, logged onto the site daily in the quarter that ended March 31. 

The growth, noted in Twitter's earnings report, is eclipsed by Musk's plans to acquire the social network. The mercurial CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has said he wants to loosen content moderation at Twitter and has indicated that he isn't concerned with its business performance. 

Twitter, which canceled the analyst call that customarily follows earnings releases, said little in its press release about the pending acquisition, except that it won't provide forward-looking guidance and that it has withdrawn its previous goals and outlook.  

Earlier, Twitter had set goals of reaching 315 million daily users and increasing annual revenue to $7.5 billion by 2023.

In its earnings report Thursday, Twitter also said that for the past three years, it had been slightly overreporting its user numbers because of how it had counted multiple accounts tied to a single user as multiple users. In a chart comparing the older numbers with the corrected numbers, the biggest numerical discrepancy was 1.9 million users, or just under 1%, in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Musk, the world's richest person, has said he wants to acquire Twitter because he doesn't believe the company adheres to the principles of free speech, a term he has used often and loosely. On Tuesday, he tweeted, "By 'free speech', I simply mean that which matches the law." 

Under the US Constitution's First Amendment, free speech refers to protection from government interference. It doesn't apply to companies such as Twitter. 

At a public engagement earlier this month, Musk said he doesn't care about Twitter's economics, which could deteriorate if looser moderation standards attract hate speech and harassment that drive away advertisers.

In the first quarter, Twitter generated revenue of $1.2 billion, up 16% year over year. CNBC, citing data from market data provider Refinitiv, reported that quarterly revenue was below estimates of $1.23 billion. Twitter reported 61 cents earnings per share though that included its sale of mobile app platform MoPub.

Twitter's stock is down 1% at $48.10 per share.