Elon Musk says activists want to ‘destroy free speech’ as ​​advertisers leave Twitter

Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk said the company has seen a “massive drop” in revenue, blaming civil rights and other advocacy groups for fear away from advertisers as he moves quickly to make his mark on the social media platform.

Many advertisers have halted spending on Twitter as Tesla’s CEO makes sweeping changes to the company. Twitter employees on Friday began receiving layoff notices amid reports that Musk plans to cut about 3,700 jobs — about half of Twitter’s workforce. The cuts include employees responsible for enforcing community standards and security measures across the platform.

Previously, Musk had expressed his desire to make Twitter less dependent on advertising — possibly by charging a $8 monthly fee for verification — as well as unleashing “free speech” on the service and eliminating bots. But Musk tweeted on Friday that “nothing has changed with the containment of the content” and said “we’ve done everything we can to appease activists,” without specifying which groups he was referring to.

“Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America,” Musk said.

Human rights activists are stepping up calls for companies to stop funneling advertising dollars into Musk’s pocket, arguing his policies will fuel hate speech, including abusive and racist language and images they say have proliferated on Twitter since then. who completed the acquisition on October 28. dubbing the #StopToxicTwitter effort.

“Within 24 hours of Musk’s ownership, the platform was flooded with hate and misinformation,” the coalition of activist groups said in an open letter to the CEOs of the 20 largest advertisers on the platform. “Without deliberate efforts by Twitter to address this type of abuse and hate, your brands will be actively supporting accelerating extremism.”


Elon Musk makes policy changes, shakes up Twitter

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The group said Twitter advertisers “have a moral and civic obligation to take a stand against the degradation of one of the world’s most influential communication platforms.” They are urging companies to freeze spending until Musk shows he will enact measures aimed at maintaining election integrity, including investing in human fact checkers and moderators.

Free Press, one of the groups, said there are potentially dangerous real-world consequences for allowing hate speech and conspiracy theories to spread on social media. It said Twitter activity could spark violence, threaten public health and undermine elections.

Increase in racial slurs

In a media call Friday, members of the activist coalition said Musk’s leadership transition coincided with a more than 1,000 percent increase in racial slurs on Twitter.

“We are witnessing the real-time destruction of one of the most powerful communications systems in the world,” said Nicole Gill, co-founder of another activist group, Accountable Tech.

Advertising spending makes up 90% of Twitter’s revenue, giving advertisers the ability to demand that Musk protect Twitter’s security and viability, the groups argue.

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Elon Musk’s Twitter profile on November 4, 2022.

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Separately, researchers from Montclair State University found that the 12 hours immediately following Musk’s takeover of Twitter saw a much more “hostile” environment on the platform. The team looked at tweets filled with “vulgar and hostile” rhetoric targeting people based on their race, religion, ethnicity and orientation, including the “n-word”, “k-word” and “f-word” , to find out how bad it got. They found an “immediate, visible and measurable spike” in these terms.

The NAACP also said this week that it expressed to Musk its concerns about “the dangerous, life-threatening hate and conspiracies that have proliferated on Twitter” under his watch.

Companies such as Audi, General Mills, GM, Mondelez and Pfizer have already stopped advertising on Twitter, and more major advertisers are expected to follow suit. And IPG Mediabrands sent a recommendation to clients on Monday that stop advertising on Twitter for a week until there is more clarity about brand safety on the site.

After a flurry of complaints about Musk’s purchase of Twitter, the billionaire Tesla CEO recently changed his profile on the platform to read “Twitter Complaint Hotline Self-Operator.” He listed his location as “Hell”.

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