Elon Musk vents that ‘messed up’ activists are causing ‘massive drop’ in Twitter revenue as advertisers flee

The billionaire owner shared the tweet a week after reassuring advertisers that ‘we have not yet made any changes to Twitter’s content moderation policies’

Johanna Chisholm
Friday 04 November 2022 15:37 GMT
Trevor Noah tells Elon Musk how to make money from Twitter

Elon Musk took to Twitter to publicly air his grievances against so-called “activists” drawing advertisers away from his newly purchased social media platform, who he claimed were cutting into the company’s bottom line.

“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. Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America,” tweeted Mr Musk on Friday.

Mr Musk’s venting arrives as a wave of progressive leaders and celebrities have raised concerns about the potential for abuse on the platform under the new owner’s leadership, particularly given recent reports that he intends to eliminate nearly half – 3,700 – of the San Francisco company’s staff, Bloomberg reported.

For his part, the Tesla founder has made both public and private efforts to assuage advertisers, by reportedly taking meetings with the company’s customers in New York this week and tweeting on Friday that he has implemented no changes to the microblogging site’s rules.

“To be super clear, we have not yet made any changes to Twitter’s content moderation policies,” tweeted Mr Musk on Friday.

While Mr Musk laid the blame at the feet of so-called activists and claimed that content moderation on the site has remained the same since his takeover, he failed to acknowledge a recent a report that undercuts his position.

According to the Network Contagion Research Institute, since the 28 October buyout by the billionaire, content being shared on the social media platform has become increasingly more volatile. The independent forecasting group found that use of the N-word had shot up by nearly 500 per cent on Twitter in the days since Mr Musk’s takeover.

And while Mr Musk is working hard to reassure the advertising customers who helped secure more than 90 per cent of the social media platform’s revenue in its second quarter earnings this year, those executives are still skittish about the future of the platform.

For instance, earlier this month a coalition of more than 40 advocacy organisations, which included the NAACP and Free Press, filed an open letter to some of Twitter’s top 20 advertisers and requested that they begin to pull their ads from the platform should Mr Musk go ahead with gutting the company’s content moderation team.

Separately, Mediabrands, a unit of ad holding company IPG, has also advised its clients to halt their advertising plans on Twitter over the next week or at least until Mr Musk and his fellow executives are able to provide a clearer explanation of the path going forward and how the company plans to target hate speech, Reuters reported.

Some of the clients included with IPG are contacts like Coca Cola.

Morning Brew contributor Ryan Barwick first reported on the ad giant’s recommendation to IPG Media Brands clients, with the reporter citing an e-mail sent by MAGNA, a media intelligence business that is part of the group.

In that email, MAGNA reportedly advised clients that Twitter had not been in direct, clear communications with each marketing agency yet, and that “the current situation is unpredictable and chaotic, and bad actors and unsafe behaviors thrive in such an environment.”

General Motors also confirmed to CNBC that it had similarly temporarily suspended advertising on Twitter, in what the company described as an effort to “understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership.”

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