Elon Musk says he will resign as Twitter CEO once he finds a replacement
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Twitter owner Elon Musk says he plans to resign just as soon as he can find someone, as he put it, foolish enough to take the job. For the past two months, under Musk, the social media platform has been in a constant state of upheaval. NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn is here to discuss what may be next for Twitter. Hey, Bobby.
BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.
KELLY: So when I say it's been in constant upheaval, I'm not sure there's been a single day since Musk took over that hasn't generated controversy of some sort of another. Why is he announcing now that he plans, eventually, to step aside?
ALLYN: That's right. It's been a head-spinning couple months. But a few important things have shifted recently. First, key Silicon Valley supporters of Musk's takeover of Twitter have started to lose faith. And over at another corporation he runs, the electric vehicle company Tesla, investors are becoming impatient. Musk is used to having his fair share of haters. But, you know, when some of his most powerful and influential supporters start to back away, I think Musk listens. He also conducted a poll on Twitter asking his followers if he should step down. It was a bit of a stunt, but a majority of the respondents said yes.
KELLY: Do we know what specifically is making these influential, powerful supporters distance themselves?
ALLYN: Yeah, he made some policy decisions in recent days that were widely condemned. First, he temporarily suspended the accounts of half a dozen journalists from outlets like The New York Times and CNN. These reporters have written critically of Musk. Some have written or tweeted about a Twitter account that tracked the movement of Musk's private jet, all based on public information, I may add. But Musk didn't like it, so he suspended them. Press freedom advocates were alarmed.
The second move that became instantly divisive was Musk announced that linking to competing social media sites would be banned - so no tweets linking to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter alternative Mastodon. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who has supported Musk, said that didn't make sense. And Paul Graham, who is a prominent venture capitalist, said it was his last straw and that he would be leaving Twitter. Now, Graham has also been a longtime ally of Musk. Musk reversed both of these controversial moves, but, you know, not before some real damage was done here.
KELLY: OK, so where do things go next? Do we know who Musk might choose as his replacement? Do we know when? Do we know if he means it? Is he really going?
ALLYN: Yeah, all good questions. Musk hasn't named any possible replacement, but longtime observers of Musk say if you look at his other companies, Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, he does tend to tap people from his inner circle to take over executive functions. So that sure does look likely. Now, there's no timeline as to when this might happen, but one thing is certain - it's not going to be an easy job. Morale is low at Twitter. The latest estimates suggest that when you combine layoffs, resignations and others who have left, about 70% of Twitter's staff is now gone.
The other thing is Musk would still be the ultimate decider. He still owns Twitter, and all decisions, at the end of the day, will still fall to him. So when Musk says it's going to take some time to find someone foolish enough to take the job, well, Mary Louise, his assessment might really be right there.
KELLY: Thank you, Bobby.
ALLYN: Thanks, Mary Louise.
KELLY: NPR's Bobby Allyn.
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