Elon Musk has acquired Twitter, and the platform's top advertisers should take notice. If Musk makes even a fraction of the changes he has suggested, the platform will open the floodgates for misinformation and hate speech and reinstate numerous dangerous and abusive accounts — including former President Donald Trump, whose account was permanently suspended for inciting violence following the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.
As Media Matters President Angelo Carusone has warned, recognizing the dangers of Musk’s Twitter takeover “isn’t alarmism, this is fact.”
Musk has a demonstrated history of opposing corporate transparency and promoting right-wing misinformation. It is incumbent on the platform’s top advertisers — including HBO, Mondelez International, and Amazon — to pull their support if Musk’s acquisition results in a new deluge of unmoderated right-wing hatred and misinformation.
Twitter’s top 20 advertisers should wield their influence to try and curb Musk’s potential damages to the platform
In an October 27 letter to advertisers posted on Twitter, Musk proclaimed that “Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world.” This claim rings hollow given Musk’s demonstrated aversion to advertising.
Considering that ads reportedly accounted for 90% of Twitter’s revenue, it is clear that the power to hold Musk accountable if he rolls back the platform’s protections against harassment, abuse, and disinformation lies in the hands of Twitter’s top advertisers.
According to Pathmatics, a firm that tracks digital spending, the 20 companies that spent the most on Twitter advertising since January 1 paid the platform an estimated $358 million combined. These companies include:
- Home Box Office Inc. (HBO)
- Mondelez International
- PepsiCo Inc.
- Best Buy Co. Inc.
- Apple Inc.
- The Coca-Cola Company
- Capital One Financial Corporation
- Procter & Gamble
- Merck & Co. (Merck Sharp & Dohme MSD)
- CenturyLink (Lumen Technologies Inc.)
- Comcast Corporation
- Meta Platforms Inc. (formerly Facebook Inc.)
- CBS (CBS.com)
In the potential scenario that Musk wields Twitter to promote his red-pilledideological agenda, these 20 companies will be funding and lending support to a platform that fuels right-wing hatred and extremism.
Under Musk, Twitter is set to restore Trump to the platform and become a cesspool of right-wing misinformation
In May, Musk said that the decision to permanently ban Trump from the platform was “morally bad,” and that he would reverse the decision, even though Twitterandother platforms saw decreases in misinformation after banning him. If Musk reinstates Trump’s account, Trump could return to the platform and spread self-serving misinformation and hateful rhetoric to more mainstream audiences. Numerous other extremists could also rejoin the platform under Musk’s leadership.
When news first broke that Musk had plans to purchase Twitter, banned users including former Trump aide Steve Bannon, Christian nationalist Rep. Marjorie Tayor Greene (R-GA), white nationalist political commentator Nick Fuentes, and numerous QAnon-supporting users celebrated the move. Election denier and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander, who is also currently banned from Twitter, called Musk’s prospective ownership of the platform “the most consequential thing I’ve seen since the election of Trump.” Extreme anti-trans figures also celebrated by begging the billionaire to bring back accounts suspended for spreading hatred and bigotry.
It is no mistake that extremists see Musk as their ally: the Tesla CEO has historically used his own Twitter account to amplify right-wing conspiracytheories, misinformation, and discriminatoryrhetoric. Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk has praised Musk for “dispensing red pills on every corner.”
Additionally, right-wing media have celebrated the pending deal and suggested that once Musk owns Twitter, he will exact revenge on their behalf for nonexistent bias against conservatives on the platform. Fox News host Sean Hannity advised Musk to fire “most, if not all” Twitter employees and Fox’s Tucker Carlson absurdly compared Musk's Twitter takeover to the fall of the Berlin Wall, while One America News host Addison Smith reveled that “Elon Musk has literally bought the libs. He owns them now.”
Advertisers should not give credence to Musk’s purported benevolent concern for free speech: His vision for Twitter would be a capitulation to extremists who want free rein to harm other users.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.