Elon Musk Fields Questions From Twitter Employees Amid Takeover Saga

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Elon Musk

kicked off a question-and-answer session with

Twitter Inc.

TWTR -0.92%

employees Thursday with a mixture of humor and substance.

The meeting, scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Pacific time, began several minutes late, according to Twitter employees participating in the meeting. Mr. Musk spoke to employees via a videoconference from his shakily held smartphone, which he appeared to be holding in his hand, according to a video viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Among the first employee questions, which were conveyed by

Leslie Berland,

Twitter’s chief marketing officer, were why Mr. Musk likes Twitter, and whether he would come back and do another session, according to one of the employees.

Mr. Musk said “some people use their hair to express themselves, I use Twitter,” according to a tweet from Nola Weinstein, global head of brand experiences and engagement at the company.

Asked about his stance on free speech, Mr. Musk said people should be allowed to say pretty outrageous things within the law but that doesn’t mean it gets amplified, according to another employee joining the session. He drew a distinction between freedom of speech and freedom of reach, the employee said.

The billionaire’s first direct interaction with Twitter’s rank-and-file employees comes after weeks in which he publicly criticized the company he has agreed to buy and belittled its top executives. Since inking the acquisition in April, he has said Twitter is too reliant on advertising, questioned its estimate of how many of its users are bots and tweeted a meme that mocked the top legal boss at the San Francisco-based company.

Elon Musk has cultivated close ties with Beijing to build Tesla’s business in China. Now that he is buying Twitter and focusing on free speech, WSJ looks at how China has used the social-media platform to promote its views, and why that’s raising concerns. Photo Illustration: Sharon Shi

When Twitter Chief Executive

Parag Agrawal

defended his company’s ability to fight spam accounts, Musk responded with a series of tweets culminating in an emoji of excrement.

Last week, Mr. Musk threatened to terminate the transaction in a letter accusing the company of not complying with his request for data.

He has kept Twitter employees and Wall Street on edge as to whether he will follow through on his agreed-upon $44 billion purchase of the social-media platform. Twitter has said it is proceeding with the process to close the transaction on agreed terms.

Write to Deepa Seetharaman at [email protected] and Sarah E. Needleman at [email protected]

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