Elon Musk's influence over Twitter was clear at its annual meeting

Even though executives tried not to talk about Musk's deal to buy the company, they couldn't help but address his agenda.

Elon Musk with little Elon Musk Twitter birds flying out of his mouth

Elon Musk loomed over Twitter's annual shareholder meeting.

Photoillustration: Getty Images; Unsplash; Protocol

In his opening remarks at Twitter's annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday, CEO Parag Agrawal said he wouldn't discuss the pending acquisition bid from Elon Musk, which wasn't on the agenda. That didn’t matter much: Musk’s fingerprints were all over the event, even overshadowing the expected if still-emotional news that Jack Dorsey would step away from Twitter’s board at the meeting's conclusion.


In their presentations to shareholders, Twitter executives spent a considerable amount of time addressing Musk’s pet peeves: They affirmed their support for free speech, downplayed content-moderation efforts, and said Twitter needed to take a “more measured” approach to hiring that focused on engineering and product.

“Silencing political commentary is antithetical to our commitment to free speech,” Agrawal said on the call. “Our tools and processes aim to enforce these rules without any bias and do so dispassionately and equally for all users, regardless of their background [or] political affiliation.”

In a 2020 interview that he gave when he was serving as Twitter's CTO, Agrawal set a much different tone, saying Twitter should focus “less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed.”

“Twitter is obviously a public forum and we serve the public conversation,” General Counsel Sean Edgett said on the call, echoing Musk’s labeling of Twitter as the “de facto public town square.”

The “public forum” positioning could lend support to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s argument that social networks and other mass communications tools are "sufficiently akin" to common carriers, which in his view takes away their "right to exclude." By reclassifying social media firms as common carriers, the Supreme Court could find a rationale to strip protections inherent in Sec. 230, an outcome Texas’s HB 20 social media law is also trying to advance. Twitter has relied strongly on Sec. 230's protections for posting and moderating user-generated content throughout its existence.

Musk recently tweeted that Twitter under his ownership would be "hardcore" about hiring engineering talent. Twitter CFO Ned Segal said at the meeting that Twitter had “focused our hiring more on engineering and product than on other areas to ensure that we continue to develop scalable technology solutions to the opportunities that we see.”

Musk was also seemingly unfazed by a potential mass exodus of Twitter employees following his acquisition. At this year’s Met Gala, he said that any Twitter employee who doesn’t feel comfortable with his vision “will on their own accord go somewhere else — that's fine.”

Some disgruntled shareholders even directly addressed Musk, who has no formal role at Twitter and did not speak on the call.

“Mr. Musk, if you’re listening, we hope that you’ll join us in voting for this proposal,” Ethan Peck, an associate at the National Center for Public Policy Research, said on the call. Peck unsuccessfully tried to rally shareholders on Proposal 7, which requested an audit to determine whether Twitter’s DEI initiatives resulted in “discrimination against employees deemed ‘non-diverse.’”

“You once called wokeness a ‘mind virus’ — we agree,” Peck said, continuing to address Musk. “Fellow shareholders, it’s on our dime that Twitter is implementing these immoral and blatantly discriminatory policies, and in doing so, the company is stealing from us in plain sight.”

Shareholders did not approve that proposal, nor a near-opposite measure from Arjuna Capital that said Twitter’s board needed “human and/or civil rights expertise.”

Those two proposals illustrate just one of the dimensions on which the competing visions for Twitter’s future diverge. In the virtual shareholder meeting, Twitter executives tried to pay lip service to both sides. It’s less clear, however, what they hope to gain from doing so: Musk has strongly suggested he'll clean house if he takes over Twitter.

Musk's commitment to the deal, which seemed to waver recently, may be more certain now. In a new filing, he revealed that he had raised his equity commitment to the deal to $33.5 billion, making it less reliant on debt financing or outside investment.

Climate

Sealed finds a market in home decarbonization

Sealed offers homeowners the chance to save money and help protect the planet.

Sealed is convincing homeowners to look at their HVAC systems and insulation in order to save energy and money.

Photo: Gabe Souza/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Shiny silver panels hug the walls of Andy Frank’s attic; they vaguely remind me of a child’s robot Halloween costume. A sticky-looking foam lines both the gaps in the attic’s floorboards and the roof, plugging up holes where squirrels could have once taken shelter.

The space is positively sweat-inducing, even for the mere minute I have my head poking above the trapdoor.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Now that most organizations are returning to the office, there are varying extremes – some leaders demand that employees return to the office, with some employees revolting and some rejoicing to be together again. On the other hand, some companies have closed physical offices and made remote work permanent; creating a sigh of relief for some employees and creating frustration for others.

Most of us are somewhere in between, trying our best to take a measured approach at building the right hybrid strategy tailored to company culture. Some seemingly have begun to crack the code, while the majority are grappling with the when, how, why, and who of this new hybrid work reality.

Keep Reading Show less
Nathan Coutinho

Nathan Coutinho leads Logitech's global conferencing business strategy and analyst relations. A Swiss company focused on innovation and quality, Logitech designs products and experiences that have an everyday place in people's lives.Coutinho leads strategy and execution of Logitech's video conferencing solutions, from personal solutions to highly-scalable conference rooms.Coutinho has more than 25 years of experience in the IT industry with various roles in executive leadership, consulting, engineering, marketing and technical sales.

Workplace

Experts say tech companies need to prepare for the next SCOTUS decision

HR experts said companies need to be proactive about protections for contraception, privacy and LGBTQ+ rights.

Experts say tech leaders need to start thinking about future Supreme Court rulings.

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Tech companies are still trying to prepare for a post-Roe world. But it might already be time to think about what the Supreme Court is planning next.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a concurring opinion that the court should also reconsider rulings protecting contraception and same-sex relationships, citing Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell. If those decisions were ever overruled, it would have massive implications for everyone, but especially for employees living in states where same-sex marriage is at risk of becoming illegal without a federal shield.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Policy

What’s next for tech in a post-Roe world

From employee support to privacy concerns, tech companies play a critical role in what’s to come for abortion access in the U.S.

States banning abortion means that tech will play a critical role in what’s to come for abortion access in the U.S.

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The end of Roe v. Wade has sent the world of tech scrambling. Many companies are now trying to quickly figure out how to protect workers in states where abortion will be banned, while also facing potential privacy and legal ramifications.


Here’s a look at tech companies’ roles and responses to the ruling. We will update this page as news and events change.

Keep Reading Show less
Alex Eichenstein

Alex Eichenstein (@alexeichenstein) is Protocol's social media editor. Previously, she managed social media and audience engagement efforts at the Center for Public Integrity. She earned an B.A. in English, women and gender studies and political science from the University of Delaware. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Fintech

You’re thinking about Apple Pay Later all wrong

Apple’s “buy now, pay later” product has a distinctly different distribution strategy that means it doesn’t directly threaten Affirm, Klarna and Afterpay.

Apple Pay Later emerges as a distinctly different product than what Klarna and Affirm offer.

Image: Apple; Protocol

Apple’s entry into the “buy now, pay later” market was one of its worst-kept secrets: Analysts had been predicting the company’s rollout of a pay-later service as early as 2020. The most common read on the move was predictable: Apple was here to smash the competition. The company has a track record of jumping into new sectors late and still managing to come out on top — the iPod came out when there were tons of MP3 players on the market.

But some analysts have a starkly different view. When you look at it under the hood, Apple Pay Later emerges as a distinctly different product than what Klarna and Affirm offer, they say — and one that isn’t much of a market predator.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

Latest Stories
Bulletins