As Elon Musk seeks new methods to monetize Twitter, he is confronted with a far more pressing issue: advertisers are abandoning the network. According to Musk, “Twitter has seen a big loss in income” as a result of advertisers’ worries about content filtering and other problems highlighted by activists.
A number of large corporations, including GM, Audi, Pfizer, General Mills, Volkswagen, and others, have halted advertisements in recent days, fearful of prospective changes to Twitter’s policy as well as the departure of prominent executives. Industry organisations have also raised concerns over Musk’s brand safety, and The New York Times reported this week that “IPG, one of the world’s top advertising agencies, issued some advice… for customers to temporarily suspend their spending on Twitter.”
It is immoral, dangerous, and highly destructive to our democracy for any advertiser to fund a platform that fuels hate speech, election denialism and conspiracy theories. Until actions are taken to make this a safe space, we call on companies to pause all advertising on Twitter.
— Derrick Johnson (@DerrickNAACP) November 4, 2022
The NAACP joined other civil rights organisations in calling for an advertising boycott of the site on Friday. “Any advertising funding a platform that fosters hate speech, election denialism, and conspiracy theories is unethical, dangerous, and very damaging to our democracy,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement.
Advertisers’ withdrawal in the face of demands for an ad boycott demonstrates how swiftly Twitter’s ad revenue has deteriorated under Musk. It also comes only a week after Musk sought to reassure the industry that he did not want the platform to become a “free-for-all hellscape.” Following the announcement of Musk’s takeover of the firm, there was a substantial increase in hate speech and racist insults on Twitter. Later, Twitter’s safety chief blamed the behaviour on an organized trolling operation. However, the activities heightened human rights organizations’ worries, forcing Musk to meet with civil rights officials this week.
On Friday, he seemed to blame the decline in ad income on the same activists. “Twitter has seen a large reduction in income as a result of activist organisations lobbying advertisers, despite the fact that nothing has changed with content moderation and we done all we could to placate the activists,” he tweeted.
However, a coalition of human rights organisations and campaigners disagreed with Musk’s assessment. During a conference call with reporters on Friday, they argued Musk’s wholesale layoffs of Twitter employees, particularly those in moderation and safety, violate the assurances he made during their meeting.
“When you lay off almost half of your personnel, including teams in charge of really tracking, monitoring, and enforcing content moderation regulations, it inherently indicates that content moderation has changed,” Jessica González, co-CEO of Free Press, said.
The organisation also expressed worry over Musk’s amplification of far-right conspiracy theories surrounding the assault on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, as well as allegations that the now-CEO might weaken Twitter’s present policies safeguarding trans users. “If Twitter does not take quick tangible changes that demonstrate a serious commitment to preserving best standards that safeguard users that corporations will not support with ad revenue,” stated GLAAD CEO Sarah Ellis.