Elon Musk described his short time of running Twitter as painful and stressful, as he opened up on a number of issues in an impromptu interview with the BBC, including mass lay-offs at the company, a potential future sale, AI regulation and improving performance under his leadership.

The interview, described by the BBC as being granted at the “last minute”, was aired live from Twitter’s HQ on its news channel, as well as streamed to up to 3 million people on the social media platform.

It came to life after a BBC journalist queried why BBC was labelled on Twitter as “government-funded media”, which Musk said would be updated in due course to fall under a “publicly funded” tag.

The BBC row aside, Musk used the interview to open up on the Twitter takeover, completed last year for $44 billion, stating that while taking the helm had not been “a party” and instead a “rollercoaster”, it had been the right thing to do.

However, Musk did concede that he only went through with the deal, after repeatedly attempting to back out, because courts would have made him do so eventually.

Addressing the shape of the company upon takeover, Musk said it was being run like a non-profit, with money spent “like it’s going out of fashion”.

He noted Twitter was taking in $4.5 billion in revenue and racking up $4.5 billion in costs, with a negative cash flow situation of $3 billion, meaning it had around four months “to live”.

To keep it alive, Musk said “drastic action” had to be taken. He revealed that when taking the hot seat the company had just under 8,000 staff, which has since been cut to 1,500. The executive defended the mass sackings, as well as his own response, stating Twitter faced bankruptcy if costs were not cut immediately.

“This is not a caring, uncaring situation. It’s like the whole ship sinks then nobody’s got a job,” he stated.

Without adding detail, Musk said things were now going “reasonably well”, with usage up and it was “roughly breaking even” following the return of its advertisers.

On the controversial issue of fake accounts and bots, which almost derailed his takeover, Musk said he believed there was now less misinformation and he was continuing efforts to eradicate them from the platform.

Interestingly, Musk also added he would not sell Twitter today for the price he paid for it, but a lot would depend on if the buyer was as committed to telling the truth as he was.

The interview came shortly after it emerged Musk had merged Twitter with a shell company, dubbed X Corp, meaning it no longer exists as an independent operation.

Easy interface
Last but not least, Musk addressed the ever on-trend and yet controversial issue of generative AI. While AI development has been going on for a long-time, Musk indicated its take-off has been due to the emergence of “an easy interface”, which is what Microsoft-backed ChatGPT has provided.

After backing an open letter calling for a pause in the development of AI systems more powerful than ChatGPT’s updated GPT-4 last month, Musk in the interview said there should be an AI regulatory body created to ensure the technology “doesn’t present a danger to the public”.