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Elon Musk is apparently freaking out a little over an exodus of advertisers on Twitter since he took over, because he publicly threatened them on Friday night.
It started Friday morning, when he whined in an extremely Trump-like tweet that advertisers were fleeing because of “activist groups,” which he said was “Extremely messed up!” and an attempt “to destroy free speech in America.” He also insisted “nothing has changed” since he took over.
Among the many replies to this tweet was Federalist Society fellow Mike Davis, a lawyer best known for his involvement with the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Davis had some advice for Musk of fairly dubious legal wisdom:
“Name and shame the advertisers who are succumbing to the advertiser boycotts. So we can counter-boycott them. And get your $8 monthly subscription going asap. So we can start to makeup for lost revenue now,” he said in part.
Musk’s reply: “Thank you. A thermonuclear name & shame is exactly what will happen if this continues.”
Sure. Because one thing we know for certain, threatening advertisers with either a retaliatory boycott or some form of doxxing is a sure-fire way to convince them to give you money.
Musk was, per usual lately, widely mocked on the platform he owns. We won’t get too bogged down on that, but we would like to share a couple of the more cogent responses:
Content moderation has, of course, been the primary concern advertisers have expressed about Twitter now that Musk is in charge. Advertisers don’t want their ads appearing next to disinformation or racist/sexist/harassing/etc tweets, something experts have repeatedly tried to explain to Musk — including one Musk blocked who had participated in a phone meeting Musk held with advertisers on the topic the night before.
Setting aside the hyperbole of his original tweet, plenty has actually changed since he took over. Prior to his buying the company, he repeatedly indicated he wanted to drastically reduce how content is moderated on Twitter. Then when he did take over, there was a sharp and very visible spike in racist and other forms of bigoted speech. And of course, Musk ended his first weekend as Twitter’s new owner by sharing a homophobic conspiracy theory about the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband.
He’s also announced a plan to replace the site’s current verification system with a subscription service anyone can pay for — which as experts and users alike have explained, utterly defeats the purpose of verification. And that’s not even getting into sudden mass layoffs that appear to have, among other things, killed the company’s human rights team and sharply reduced the content moderation team.