Brands Face Pressure From Activists After Musk Restores Trump Account

A coalition of civil rights activists on Monday called on Twitter advertisers to release statements about removing their ads from the social network after its owner Elon Musk lifted a ban on former US President Donald Trump’s tweets.

Trump’s account, which Twitter had suspended after the demonstration in the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, risking the spread of violence, was restored over the weekend. About 90 percent of Twitter’s revenue comes from selling digital ads.

Groups in the Stop Toxic Twitter coalition complained that Musk vowed to advertisers that Twitter would take a thoughtful approach to restoring banned accounts and convened a new content moderation council. No such council has been formed as of Monday.

“It was a real violation,” said Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, a left-leaning media organization that is part of the coalition, Monday. He said Musk was “lying from the beginning.”

“In less than three weeks, Musk has gone back on all of the promises he made to leaders and human rights activists,” said Jessica Gonzalez, chief media officer and pro-democracy organization Free Press, which is also part of the Twitter coalition, in a press release.

Twitter, which lost most of its social media team when Musk cut staff shortly after taking over, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This month, Musk complained that activist pressure had caused a “significant drop in revenue.”

Twitter began restoring banned or suspended accounts late last week including comedian Kathy Griffin and Trump.

The platform also restored the personal Twitter account of US House representative Marjorie Taylor Greene on Monday.

Of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers by total spend this year, 51 set ads based on private conversations with affiliates, public statements or spending data provided by ad measurement firm Pathmatics, Carusone said.

The coalition is asking companies that have not announced their stance on Twitter to issue public statements and help generate pressure on the other 49 advertisers who have not taken action, he said.

“You have to hold back and draw the line,” Carusone said. “It is important that people who spend a lot of money say stop.”

The coalition will consider naming the companies later this week if they haven’t issued a public statement about pausing ads, he added.

Musk tweeted on Saturday that Twitter would restore the former president’s account after a small majority voted yes on Musk’s election on the issue.

The top names on Twitter’s top advertisers list have changed since the week before Musk closed his deal to acquire the company. Major brands HBO and Mondelez were the top two Twitter advertisers in the week before the acquisition, according to data from Pathmatics. But between November 10 and November 16, after Musk laid off half of Twitter’s staff, the two biggest advertisers were, a personal finance website and Trendytowns, an e-commerce site based in Singapore.

Pathmatics data showed that the top 100 advertisers between November 10 and November 16 spent an estimated $23.6 million (around Rs. 193 crore) on Twitter, down from $24.2 (around Rs. -Rs. 198 crore) spent between October 16 to October 22 before Musk became the Owner of Twitter.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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