Major advertisers have fled Twitter since Elon Musk took over the platform a little over a week ago admidst concerns about a rise in misinformation, hate speech, and other distasteful content under his watch. Musk’s company-wide layoffs cut major portions of the company’s content moderation team and its entire Ethical AI team, after all.
Musk, who spent his first few days at Twitter talking about how great things will be for advertisers, responded by threatening his own ad clients. “A thermonuclear name & shame is exactly what will happen if this continues,” Musk tweeted Friday. He was so rattled that he admitted Twitter was in a tight spot on Friday: “Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers.”
That’s a confusing strategy, to say the least. Twitter doesn’t have the targeted advertising capability that marketers demand when they’re trying to sell individual products and services, so most of Twitter’s ad revenue comes from brand awareness campaigns. Companies paying to promote their image worry more about running ads alongside inappropriate content, and it’s hard to imagine how threatening to smear brands will promote healthy business relationships.
There’s good reason for companies to be concerned, even though Musk has said “nothing has changed with content moderation;” the billionaire Tesla CEO makes loud and conflicting statements about how he plans to moderate the platform, simultaneously declaring Twitter a haven for free speech absolutism while promising that it won’t turn into to a “free-for all hellscape.” Since the SpaceX CEO took over, the platform saw a massive spike in hate speech, with use of the N-word jumping 500%, according to one report. Musk himself tweeted and then deleted an obviously false conspiracy theory about an attack on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Twitter controls just a fraction of the digital ad marketplace. For most big companies that buy ads on Twitter, the money they spend there is almost an afterthought in their overall marketing budgets. Cutting off that flow of ad dollars may not be a difficult businesses decision at a lot of companies, which means the general feeling in the air about Twitter could have a huge impact on the social media company’s bottom line.
It’s early days for Musk’s version Twitter, so corporate America is taking a wait-and-see approach to working with the platform. In the meantime, at least 10 blue chip advertisers closed their purse strings. Here’s a list of the biggest companies who’ve stopped advertising on Twitter.