BACK IN THE HABIT

Elon Musk: “Some people use their hair to express themselves. I use Twitter.”

It’s just me.
It’s just me.
Image: Reuters/Mike Blake
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Who would Elon Musk be without Twitter? Probably still chairman of Tesla. Last month, the US Securities and Exchange Commission stripped him of his role heading up the electric-car company’s board and assessed $40 million in fines for allegedly misleading investors when he tweeted that he had ”funding secured” to take Tesla private.

But Musk remains CEO (although he holds the title begrudgingly) and he continues to taunt regulators on Twitter.

Indeed, Musk simply wouldn’t be the household name he is today without daily access to the world’s online attention via a social media platform where he has 23.5 million followers. Musk has expressed his unabashed affection for the service before.

During an hour-long interview with Kara Swisher from Recode published on Nov. 2, Musk opened up about how Twitter is a means to be himself (not always his best self, he admitted). “I guess I sometimes use Twitter to express myself, and that’s a weird thing to do, I suppose,” he said. “Some people use their hair to express themselves. I use Twitter.”

His Twitter habit, which he says he indulges in mostly at home in 10- to 15-minute bursts, is mainly about sharing interesting and entertaining ideas as they come, “probably with not much of a filter,” he says. An example of one of his more popular tweets, he says, was a missive on Oct. 22 announcing “I love anime.”

“People loved that,” he told Recode’s Kara Swisher. “That was like one of my most popular tweets.”

How does Musk see Twitter?  “I look at it as a way to learn things, kinda stay in touch with what’s happening,” he said. “It feels like dipping into the flow of consciousness of society,” an observation Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey quoted approvingly.

Musk told Swisher that he is not changing his Twitter behavior anytime soon despite the SEC lawsuit. The settlement, Tesla said in an October filing, “enhance[s] controls with respect to Elon’s public communications regarding Tesla and to pre-approve any such written communications that contain, or reasonably could contain, information material to Tesla or its stockholders.” Musk says the constraints are “not really” an issue. “I think it’s mostly just if it’s something that might cause a substantial movement in the stock during trading hours,” he said. “That’s about it.”

But Tesla’s tussle with regulators seems far from over. In its regular 10-Q quarterly filing submitted today, the company acknowledged (p. 32) that the SEC has subpoenaed Tesla in connection to both the take-private claim and projections that the company made regarding production rates for the Model 3, the most affordable Tesla yet. “The DOJ [US Department of Justice] has also asked us to voluntarily provide it with information about each of these matters and is investigating,” the company noted, saying it is cooperating with the authorities.

Asked by Swisher if he wanted any “redos” for 2018, Musk had a few, and almost all of them involved Twitter—not surprising for someone who in the past year has used the platform to attack journalists, the autoworkers union, nanotechnology researchers, and a cave diver he baselessly accused of being a pedophile.

“It’s fair to say I would probably not have tweeted some of the things I tweeted, that was probably unwise,” Musk told Recode. “And probably not gotten into some of the online fights that I got into.” That group includes “some” journalists, Musk said, and, we presume, obscure Twitter accounts such as Dyl Pickle (and his 91 followers).