Jack Dorsey, who is now defending Elon Musk, in 2021.

In a new interview, Jack Dorsey explained Elon Musk’s seemingly chaotic decisions at X.The mass layoffs, advertiser exodus, and blue-check revamp fit into a push for free speech, Dorsey said.It’s all part of ditching Twitter’s “core, critical sin” of advertiser control, he said.

Elon Musk’s handling of Twitter has been panned as erratic. But the platform’s cofounder, Jack Dorsey, is defending his fellow billionaire’s approach, saying Musk’s sweeping job cuts and ditching of advertisers made sense for a shift toward free speech.

Dorsey spoke with Mike Solana, the head of marketing for VC firm Founders Fund and editor of digital media brand Pirate Wires, in an interview published Thursday. Dorsey said he shared Musk’s goal of creating an internet bastion for free speech. But Dorsey said Twitter had been weighed down by its revenue model.

Twitter chose brand advertising as its main source of income, a “core, critical sin” that exposed the platform’s moderation to the whims of corporations effectively financing the social-media platform, Dorsey said.

“And when you’re entirely dependent on that, if a brand like P&G or Unilever doesn’t like what’s happening on the platform, and they threaten to pull the budget, which accounts for like 20% of your revenue? You have no choice,” Dorsey told Solana.

Musk, who rebranded Twitter to X, triggered an advertiser exodus late in 2023 when he appeared to endorse an antisemitic post — the tipping point for many organizations after months of Musk’s controversial and confusing remarks.

The Tesla and SpaceX owner appeared nonchalant when big players such as Disney, IBM, and Apple left his platform, publicly telling advertisers to “go fuck yourself” and calling them the “greatest oppressors of free speech.”

Pundits were shocked. But Dorsey said Musk made the right choice to stick by his vision for a censorship-free “digital town square” and reduce the emphasis on advertisers.

“You have to build up a lot more than advertising to make that model work. You have to build subscriptions, which Elon is doing. You have to build commerce,” Dorsey said.

That addresses another sore point for fans of old Twitter. Shortly after taking over, Musk revamped its subscription service by giving blue-check verification to paid users and aggressively promoting monthly memberships.

Building a different business model

To many, Musk seemed to be axing Twitter’s entire business model. But Dorsey said the bleeding is part of decoupling from big advertisers’ control and finding new revenue streams.

“Twitter was a $5 billion a year business,” Dorsey said. “I don’t know what it is now, but it’s obviously nowhere near that, right? These are choices that can be made, but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the same level of business for quite some time, until you figure out a completely different model around it.”

The mass layoffs at Twitter, in which Musk slashed global headcount by 80%, also made sense to Dorsey, who said the majority of employees were in sales.

Dorsey’s comments come as he quit Bluesky, a platform he helped create after leaving Twitter, and told users to use Musk’s X instead.

He then scrapped his entire Twitter follow list except for Musk, Edward Snowden, and the wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The Twitter cofounder has generally spoken approvingly of Musk, though he’s previously said he felt Musk lacked finesse in handling big changes at X, like the messy, abrupt layoffs that led to lawsuits from former employees.

“It all looked fairly reckless,” Dorsey said in June of Musk’s moves.

Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion in October 2022, taking the company private. Less than six months later — after imposing wide-scale changes — he reportedly said that it was worth less than half of what he bought it for.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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