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Civil rights leaders issue an urgent call for advertisers to leave Twitter

Civil rights leaders issue an urgent call for advertisers to leave Twitter

A photo of Elon Musk is seen through the Twitter logo in this illustration taken on Oct. 28, 2022.

With regard to Ruvic | Reuters

While Elon Musk complains public on advertisers leaving Twitter amid activist pressure, a coalition of civil rights groups is escalating a call for brands to halt spending on the platform in light of what they see as inflammatory rhetoric and problematic policy changes from the company’s new owner.

The coalition, called #StopToxicTwitter, is made up of organizations including Media Matters, Free Press, Accountable Tech and Color of Change. Earlier this week, the coalition sent a letter to companies including Amazon, Anheuser-Busch, Apple, Capital One, Coke, Disney and Procter & Gamble to voice their concerns to Musk about what the group sees as increased hate and offensive speech on the platform.

The coalition is now calling on companies to freeze spending on Twitter, fearing widespread layoffs at the company could hamper the social media platform’s ability to moderate content on the site.

Jessica González, co-CEO of the Free Press, said at a press conference Friday that Musk earlier this week “promised to maintain and enforce the election integrity measures that were on Twitter’s books prior to his takeover.”

“With today’s massive layoffs, it’s clear that Musk’s actions belie his words,” González said.

González said she was particularly concerned about Twitter potentially relaxing its content moderation efforts ahead of next week’s midterm elections, “when we know social media is going off the rails to misinform, intimidate and harm voters of color.”

“These companies can prevent their advertising from inciting intimidation, violence and pain,” she added.

Twitter makes more than 90% of its revenue from advertising, although Musk said there will be new subscription offerings with premium features. For now, ads are required to pay the bills, and Musk acknowledges that activists are having a measurable impact.

The company has suffered “a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups putting pressure on advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation,” Tesla The CEO and new owner of Twitter tweeted on Friday. “We did everything we could to appease the activists.”

Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, said in response that the pressure on Twitter is coming from advertisers, not just activists.

“He’s obviously trying to set up a false choice here,” Carusone said. “I think his threat is only going to escalate and make it more likely for more advertisers [to join the boycott]because it only confirms and reinforces the very concern that the coalition has.”

González said that when she spoke with Musk earlier this week, “he seemed sincere, but his actions betrayed his words.”

“He has shown in the past few days that he will not fulfill his promises,” she said.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the president of Media Matters.

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