Musk seeks to reassure advertisers on Twitter after chaos
Elon Musk sought out to reassure big businesses that advertise on Twitter Wednesday, stating that his chaotic takeover will not harm their brands. He also acknowledged that “dumb things” may happen along his path to creating a safer, better user experience. The latest erratic move that major advertisers were concerned about, and on which the company relies for revenue, was Musk’s decision just hours after introducing it to remove a “official” label from high-profile Twitter accounts.
Twitter started adding gray labels to prominent accounts Wednesday to show that they are authentic. This included brands like Coca-Cola and Nike. The labels began to disappear a few hours later.
“Aside from being an aesthetic nightmare when you look at the Twitter feed it was simply another way to create a two-class system,” the billionaire Tesla CEO said to advertisers in an hour-long conversation live on Twitter. “It wasn’t addressing the core problem.”
Musk’s comments were his most expansive about Twitter’s future since he closed a $44 billion deal to buy the company late last month, dismissed its top executives almost immediately and, on Friday, fired roughly half of its workforce. As Musk’s plans for loosening its controls against hate speech, major brands such as General Motors, United Airlines and General Mills have temporarily stopped buying ads on the platform, they are now watching if Musk’s plans will cause an increase in online toxicity.
Scores of companies big and small made their presence known among the more than 100,000 Twitter Space listeners by signing in with their brand Twitter accounts. The brand accounts of companies such as banks Deutsche Bank, TD Ameritrade and gas company Chevron, as well as airline Air Canada, and automaker Nissan, were displayed. Audi, a car brand, was present, along with R.E.I., a retailer, who stated that its ads were still paused after the call.
Musk stated that he is still working on a content moderation council, which will include diverse viewpoints to address inappropriate content and reassure advertisers. However, it would take “a few month” to put together. He said it will be advisory and “not a command council.”
Lou Paskalis, longtime marketing and media executive and former Bank of America head of global media, said the briefing raised questions that will likely leave Fortune 500 advertisers uneasy. He stated that brand safety and risk avoidance are the main concerns for large advertisers. Musk seems unwilling to rein in his Twitter persona, which can be divisive, such as his tweet prior to the election informing Americans to vote Republican.
“To speak like Elon did… and to say ‘vote Republican because there’s a Democrat at the White House’ — I don’t know what marketer wants that,” he said. Paskalis suggested that a CEO could be hired to manage the company and maintain stability, while Musk remains his “Chief Twit”.
Musk previously threatened to tweet a “thermonuclear names & shame” on those who quit Twitter. Musk had previously threatened to tweet a “thermonuclear name & shame” on advertisers who quit Twitter. But he took a more measured approach Wednesday and asked them to “give it some time and kind of understand what’s happening with Twitter.”
” The best way to understand Twitter was to use Twitter, he said to the group, which was dominated by the head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (a trade association).
But, confusion remained on Twitter Wednesday. Hours earlier, the rollout of the “official labels” appeared to be arbitrary. Some politicians, news outlets, and well-known personalities received the label while others did not. In some cases, users were unable to see the account’s “official label” depending on where they lived.
The labels began to disappear. The label was then lost.
YouTube author John Green received the label, but his younger brother Hank Green, who is a “vlogging” partner, didn’t get it. John Green’s label was then deleted. Marques Brownlee, another popular YouTuber who posts videos about technology, tweeted that he had the label and then again that it was gone.
” I just killed it,” Musk replied, though it wasn’t immediately clear if he meant Brownlee’s label specifically or the entire project.
The current system of using blue checks to verify an account’s authenticity is being phased out by those who don’t pay a monthly subscription. Anyone who pays $7 will have access to the checkmarks. 99-a-month subscription, which will also include some bonus features, such as fewer ads and the ability to have tweets given greater visibility than those coming from non-subscribers.
The current verification system for the platform has been in place since 2009. It was designed to ensure that high-profile accounts with public exposure are authentic.
Experts expressed concern that anyone could impersonate them and spread misinformation and scams by making the checkmark freely available for a fee.
The gray label, which blends into the background regardless of whether you scroll Twitter in dark or light mode, was an apparent compromise.
Esther Crawford is a Twitter employee who worked on the verification overhaul. She stated Tuesday on Twitter that the “official label” would be added to select accounts when the new system launches. Crawford stated that not all accounts previously verified will be able to get the “Official” label. The label is not currently available for purchase.
But after the labels started disappearing Wednesday, she again took to Twitter to say “there are no sacred cows in product at Twitter anymore.”
“Elon is willing to try lots of things — many will fail, some will succeed,” she said.
There are about 423,000 verified accounts under the outgoing system. Many of these accounts belong to celebrities, politicians, and businesses.
But, a large portion of verified accounts are owned by journalists with small followings at local newspapers or news sites around the globe. It was intended to verify journalists so that their identities could not be used to promote false information on Twitter.
Musk is a critic of news coverage and often bristles at criticisms of it. He said he wanted to use the tool to verify reporters so that their identities could not be used to push false information on Twitter.
AP Technology Writer Frank Bajak contributed to this story.
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