Elon Musk says he has a Plan B if Twitter rejects his takeover

Musk also called the SEC "bastards" for allegedly forcing him into a plea deal after he tweeted about taking Tesla private.

Elon Musk speaks to TED host Chris Anderson.

Elon Musk speaks to TED host Chris Anderson

Photo: Gilberto Tadday/TED

Elon Musk has a lot of thoughts about Twitter, Tesla and the SEC, and he minced few words diving into the drama he's caused with his Twitter takeover bid during a wide-ranging conversation at the TED conference in Vancouver today.

In an interview with TED head Chris Anderson, Musk said his effort to take Twitter private is in the public interest.

"This is not about the economics. It's for the moral good," Musk said.

But that sentiment has critics — and those include Twitter employees. Musk caused concern initially when he revealed he had acquired a sizable stake in Twitter, and again when he was set to join the company's board of directors. After he declined his board seat, it became clear Musk has bigger ambitions for Twitter: deciding the company's policies on free speech and content moderation.

"My strong, intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted, and broadly inclusive, is extremely important to the future of civilization," he said.

Here are a few key takeaways from Musk's TED talk.

'I think the code should be on GitHub'

Musk said Twitter should allow users to speak "freely within the bounds of the law" and called for the platform's algorithm to be open source so the general public can suggest changes.

"I think like the code should be on GitHub, so then people can look through it and say, 'I see a problem here. I don't agree with this.' And they can highlight issues, suggest changes," Musk said.

Musk also commented on his use of the platform, which Anderson said even admirers consider "somewhere between embarrassing and crazy" — but effective.

"It's stream of consciousness," Musk said. "If I'm on the toilet and find something funny? I just tweet it out."

Uh ... relatable?

'There is' a Plan B if Twitter rejects Musk's offer

Twitter plans to fight Musk's bid to take the company private, The Information reported Thursday. When asked if he had a backup plan in that event, Musk cryptically replied: "There is."

Of course, there were no details on what that plan entailed, but Musk said he would reveal them at "another time."

In his SEC filing this morning, the Tesla CEO said he'd reconsider his role as a shareholder if Twitter doesn't take his offer.

'I was forced to admit that I lied to save Tesla's life'

Today was apparently a great day for Musk to clear the air over his drama with the SEC, sparked by a tweet that he had secured funding to take Tesla private (a thing you're supposed to clear with regulators and not with Twitter followers). After that tweet, Musk entered into a deal with securities regulators that his tweets be pre-approved, but Musk has had trouble keeping his word and the SEC has found it downright impossible to make him adhere to the agreement.

Musk said that at the time of his deal with the SEC, Tesla was in a "precarious financial situation." He was told by banks that if he didn't settle with the commission, Tesla was at risk of going bankrupt.

"I was forced to concede to the SEC unlawfully," Musk said. "Those bastards. And now, it makes it look like I lied when I did not. I was forced to admit that I lied to save Tesla's life."

'We messed up almost every aspect of the Model 3 production line'

Between 2017 and 2019, Tesla had a tough time producing Model 3 vehicles. At the start of 2019, Tesla had lost millions following production woes and slowing demands for those vehicles. Musk said Tesla messed up nearly every element of producing the Model 3, from batteries to paint shop to final assembly.

Musk said he lived in Tesla's Fremont and Nevada factories during that time. He sometimes slept on the floor of the factories so the team "going through a hard time could see me on the floor and knew I was not in some ivory tower."

Anderson pointed out that Musk's lifestyle at the time was concerning, but Musk said there wasn't any other way to come out of Tesla's crisis. "And we barely made it," Musk said.

"I know more about manufacturing than anyone alive on earth," he added, in typical Musk fashion.

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