New Twitter boss Elon Musk blamed “activists” for a “massive” revenue drop as advertisers continued to back away from the social media platform in the days since the world’s richest man took it over.
“Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists,” Musk tweeted Friday morning. “Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.”
Shortly after Musk’s Tweet was sent, the social media activist coalition #StopToxicTwitter indeed took credit for swaying advertisers away from the platform. On a press call Friday, the group further urged more companies to pull their ads from Twitter in response to its new leadership and protocols.
“That’s why we organized a Twitter campaign. That’s why today we announced that now over 60 diverse organizations have joined our call to Twitter’s advertisers,” Jessica González, co-CEO of Free Press and an organizer of the “Save Twitter” campaign, said. “That’s why today we’re escalating our call to Twitter’s advertisers who make up 90% of the company’s revenue. These companies can stop their advertising from fueling intimidation, violence and pain.”
Musk’s claim that “nothing has changed with content moderation” belies a reported surge in hate speech on the site in the week since he closed the $44 billion buyout he spent months trying to back away from, a trend that González sees continuing considering Musk’s massive layoffs Friday.
“When you lay off almost 50%, or reportedly 50% of your staff, including teams that are in charge of actually tracking, monitoring and enforcing content moderation rules, that necessarily means the content moderation will change,” she said, adding that even before Musk bought the company, its content moderation efforts were “dangerously under-resourced.”
Musk’s claim also came just days after the so-called “Chief twit” himself posted, then deleted, an unfounded conspiracy theory about the attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
In addition, Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, saw his account reactivated on late Wednesday after he was suspended prior to the buyout for a series of antisemitic statements. Ye posted multiple tweets in the hours following, largely showing support for suspended New York Net Kyrie Irving, along with oddities like “You can’t be anti-Semite when you know you are a Semite.”
Twitter is also in the process Friday morning of laying off thousands of staffers, which is expected to result in a massive hit to content moderation.
The revenue drop is difficult to measure at this point, as a host of companies have publicly acknowledged pulling back on ads, but others have likely made similar moves quietly.
Food giants General Mills and Oreo maker Mondelz International were among the latest to join the exodus, The Wall Street Journal reported, along with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Volkwagon’s Audi.
“As always, we will continue to monitor this new direction and evaluate our marketing spend,” a spokeswoman for General Mills, whose brands include Cheerios, Bisquick and Häagen-Dazs, told the Journal. General Motors was among the first companies to pause ads on the platform last week.
Even before Musk took over, Twitter’s ad sales were stumbling. In the second quarter, the then-still public company reported a 1% drop in revenue, coming in nearly 11% below Wall Street expectations.
As he prepared to close the $44 billion deal, Musk said he was buying the platform “to help humanity,” and said that it cannot become a “free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences.”
While he’s toyed with charging for verification and other revenue sources, Musk has acknowledged the need for robust advertising. “It is essential to show Twitter users advertising that is as relevant as possible to their needs,” he said. “Low relevancy ads are spam, but highly relevant ads are actually content!”