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Elon Musk: Companies Choosing Not to Buy Ads With Me Is Killing Free Speech

On Friday, Musk revealed that there had been a massive drop in revenue thanks to advertisers fleeing the company, which he blamed on unnamed “activists” who are “trying to destroy free speech in America.”

“Twitter has 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 tweeted out Friday. “Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.”

The reality, however, is that advertisers are fleeing because it’s not clear what his actual plan for the website is besides a massive layoff, but what we have seen so far is chaotic and alarming. For example, immediately after buying the website, Musk posted and then deleted an article falsely claiming that Paul Pelosi was attacked by a male sex worker and not a right-wing conspiracy theorist looking for his wife, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. A Reuters report revealed that at least one major ad buyer planned to meet with Musk over that incident. Internal documents shown to Reuters already suggested that advertisers were bearish on the website because of the growth of crypto and gambling content and an “absolute decline” in users who post frequently. 

Musk’s claim that “nothing has changed with content moderation” also rings hollow. Since Twitter’s acquisition by Musk, the site has been hemorrhaging both executives and advertisers over concerns of what Musk would do to the company. In fact, one of his very first acts was to fire Twitter’s trust and safety policy chief. Musk also laid off approximately 50 percent of Twitter’s workforce on Friday, including the team that worked on algorithmic transparency and ethics.

Musk started meeting with advertisers shortly after taking control, around the same time he directed a tweet to the company’s advertisers, promising the site wouldn’t become a “free-for-all hellscape.”

“I didn’t do it because it would be easy. I didn’t do it to make more money. I did it to try to help humanity, whom I love,” Musk tweeted after stopping his court battle to get out of an agreement to buy Twitter. “I do so with humility, recognizing that failure in pursuing this goal, despite our best efforts, is a very real possibility.”

Still, Musk is not one to let the facts get in the way of whatever he wants to say. His plan to charge for verification—while emphasizing the ability to artificially inflate your presence on the site by paying—already reeked of desperation before news of the recent revenue drop came to us. That he would turn to the common refrain of being victimized by a woke mob in the face of grim financials is only to be expected at this point. 

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