Musk Twitter Verification

Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco on Nov. 4, 2022. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

Elon Musk held a public meeting with some of Twitter’s largest advertisers and marketing partners on Wednesday, broadcasting his vision for the company and looking to keep the organizations that provide it with most of its revenue from abandoning the platform.

Musk took questions from a vetted group of advertisers on “Twitter Spaces,” a live audio conversation feature on the site that is open to anyone to listen to. Nearly 90,000 people were listening to the session.

He said it made sense that advertisers didn’t want their ads next to sexually explicit or racist content, and argued that by making people pay for the site the amount of negative content would go down because users would think twice before tweeting something that could get them banned.

“I don’t think having hate speech next to an ad is great,” Musk said. He also said the pace of change for Twitter would be much faster, and that the company would be trying new things, some of which would fail.

“If nothing else I am a technologist and I can make technology go fast,” he said. “If we do not try bold moves how will we make great improvements?”

The public meeting comes days after Musk – who acquired Twitter in a $44 billion deal last month – threatened a “thermonuclear name & shame” campaign against advertisers that leave the site out of concern for his approach to content moderation.


At a Twitter investors conference in New York on Nov. 4, Elon Musk said pressure on advertisers from unnamed activists was “an attack on the First Amendment.”

Last week Musk said Twitter was facing a “massive drop in revenue” as advertisers paused campaigns on the platform. A coterie of large advertisers and marketing agencies have said they will slow down or pause spending on the site while they assess how Musk operates it.

The day before he closed the deal Musk tweeted a statement committing to keeping the site from becoming a “free for all hellscape.” But soon after, he himself boosted a conspiracy theory about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, shaking advertisers’ faith that he would maintain rules against misinformation and hate speech.

Musk has been scrambling to shore up the company’s revenue streams, cut costs by laying people off and find new ways to make money as he faces the reality of having to pay around $1 billion a year in interest on the debt he accrued buying Twitter. The vast majority of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertising. A potential recession and rising inflation has already deeply cut into ad budgets, making now a particularly hard time for the entire digital ad industry.

At the same time, advertisers are hypersensitive to the kind of content their ads might appear beside. Musk has repeatedly said he wants to maintain content moderation standards, but by cutting half of the company’s employees activist groups and advertisers have grown doubtful the company will be able to maintain its standards on keeping hate speech and violent and sexual content out of people’s feeds.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson called on businesses to drop their advertisements on Twitter “until actions are taken to make Twitter a safe space.” Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” accused businesses that participate in the boycott of “trying to destroy free speech in America.”


Automakers Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen have all pulled their Twitter ads, along with cereal and snack companies General Mills and Mondelez, the corporation behind Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers and Sour Patch Kids candy. International ad and consulting firm Interpublic Group, which represents American Express, Coca-Cola, Fitbit, Spotify and dozens of other major corporations, has also advised its clients to suspend Twitter ad buys for now.

“A thermonuclear name & shame is exactly what will happen if this continues,” Musk tweeted Friday as more companies began their advertising exits, threatening to unleash his rowdy online fans on businesses and executives that desert the platform.

In his brief tenure, Musk has laid off roughly half of Twitter’s workforce, decimating content moderation and engineering teams days before Tuesday’s midterm elections. As the company’s remaining staff struggled to keep up with complex infrastructure challenges, the company moved to hire back some of those displaced employees.

Musk has plans to sell Twitter’s blue verification badge for $8 per month, he said, but without actually verifying users’ identities. Critics are worried the change will create havoc on a platform that already struggles with the proliferation of disinformation, bots and scammers.

The company said it would instead give officially-verified accounts a new badge to denote they’ve been confirmed to be who they say they are. It began rolling out to government officials, celebrities, news organizations and corporations Wednesday, but then some people lost the new badges. Musk soon tweeted he had “killed it” and a Twitter executive clarified later that the company was focusing on using them for “government and commercial entities” instead of individuals.

Since taking over, Musk has taunted politicians – including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) – on the platform, made jokes about masturbation, propagated misinformation about the attack on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and imposed draconian restrictions on parody accounts.

Those and other of Musk’s moves have scared advertisers.

“Advertisers are not being manipulated by activist groups, they are being compelled by established principles around the types of companies they can do business with. These principles include an assessment of the platforms commitment to brand safety and suitability,” Lou Paskalis, the president of a major marketing firm, MMA Global, tweeted at Musk.

Musk blocked Paskalis – then unblocked him – after the exchange.

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