Elon Musk is threatening to “name and shame” Twitter’s “woke” brands and advertisers who are boycotting the platform over his free speech plans.
Several brands, including Pfizer, General Mills, General Motors, and United Airlines, have publicly announced they are “pausing” ads until Musk agrees to continue censoring users.
However, other companies have quietly pulled their ads from Twitter following Musk’s takeover of the social media platform.
Musk has long stated that his plan for Twitter is to make it a “digital town square” where a broad range of ideas can be debated “in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence.”
Yet barely a week into his ownership of Twitter, a number of companies have suspended their advertising, some quietly.
Several major brands appear to be “quiet quitting.”
Executives at some of the world’s biggest advertising groups reportedly told the Financial Times that some of their clients were privately considering pulling ads from Twitter or had already done so without making any public statements to that effect, apparently to avoid courting controversy.
“There’s some quiet quitting going on,” one ad executive told the Financial Times anonymously.
Musk said in a post on Twitter that “activist groups pressuring advertisers” had led to a “massive drop in revenue” as the company engages in mass layoffs.
“Twitter 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,” Musk wrote.
“Extremely messed up!” he added.
“They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.”
Responding to Musk’s tweet was Federalist Society fellow Mike Davis.
Davis urged the Twitter chief to “name and shame the advertisers who are succumbing to the advertiser boycotts. So we can counter-boycott them.”
Musk replied: “Thank you.
“A thermonuclear name & shame is exactly what will happen if this continues.”
A thermonuclear name & shame is exactly what will happen if this continues.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 4, 2022
Some companies are adopting a “wait-and-see” approach, according to Martin Sorrell, founder of advertising giant WPP and chairman of S4 Capital, in remarks at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, earlier in the week.
At the same time, a coalition of over 40 advocacy groups wrote an open letter (pdf) to some of Twitter’s leading advertisers calling for an ad boycott if Musk “follows through on his plans to undermine brand safety and community standards including gutting content moderation.”
Even President Joe Biden piled on with criticism, saying at a Democratic fundraiser on Friday that “we are all worried” that Musk—a self-avowed free speech “absolutist”—bought a platform that “spews lies across the world.”
Musk, for his part, insisted in an open letter of his own that he would not allow the platform to become a “free-for-all hellscape” where anything could be said “with no consequences.”
“In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all,” Musk wrote.