Income depleted

Musk turns on firms ‘pressured’ into deserting Twitter

Elon Musk
Elon Musk: ‘activists are to blame’

Elon Musk is locked in a battle with big businesses which have withdrawn billions in advertising from the social media platform.

Businesses fear that the loss-making site could descend into a ‘free-for-all’ for those with malign intent after the new owner sacked hundreds of staff, including those who moderate content.

Advertisers, which make up 90% of its annual revenue, include food giant General Mills and the Volkswagen Group who suspended their campaigns on the platform. Cadbury owner Mondelez and Pfizer also withdrew advertising, following a similar decision by Danish brewing giant Carlsberg. 

Mr Musk, who made his fortune through Tesla cars and his SpaceX venture, blamed their decisions on “activist groups pressuring advertisers”. 

The South Africa born billionaire wants to cut costs at the company, which is losing more than $4million (£3.5 million) a day, but there are concerns that losing so many staff leave it struggling to control material deemed harmful or hateful.

He insisted that despite axing about half the 7,500 staff a week after sealing his $44 billion (£38.7bn) takeover “nothing has changed’ around how Twitter moderates its content. He said he has done everything he could ‘to appease the activists’. 

“Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America,” he said.

Permanent Twitter bans on controversial figures – including former president Donald Trump – could also be lifted.

The changes come shortly before the US midterm elections when a spike in disinformation is expected. 

US President Joe Biden voiced his concern about the takeover on Friday, saying “Elon Musk goes out and buys an outfit that sends – that spews lies all across the world… How do we expect kids to be able to understand what is at stake?”

Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety & integrity, played down the impact on moderation, saying the “reduction in force” affected around 15% of those working in trust and safety organisation.

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