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Activists urge ad boycott if Musk turns Twitter toxic

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Activists urge ad boycott if Musk turns Twitter toxic

Twitter is the social media darling. — © AFP

Activist groups called on Twitter advertisers Tuesday to boycott the service if it opens the gates to abusive and misinformative posts with billionaire Elon Musk as its owner.

The Tesla chief’s $44-billion deal to buy the global messaging platform must still get the backing of shareholders and regulators, but he has voiced enthusiasm for dialing back content moderation to a legal minimum and no longer banning people for using the platform to instigate real-world harm.

“Your brand risks association with a platform amplifying hate, extremism, health misinformation, and conspiracy theorists,” said an open letter signed by more than two dozen groups including Media Matters, Access Now and Ultraviolet.

“Under Musk’s management, Twitter risks becoming a cesspool of misinformation, with your brand attached.”

The groups urged advertisers to require that Twitter maintain its content moderation policies as a non-negotiable term of doing business with the platform.

Twitter makes most of its revenue from ads, and that could be jeopardized by advertisers’ reaction to content posted on the platform, the San Francisco-based tech firm said in a filing with US regulators.

Ad revenue at Twitter increased 16 percent to $1.2 billion in the recently ended quarter, while revenue from subscriptions and other means decreased to $94.4 million, the company said in the filing.

While Musk has not revealed nitty-gritty details of how he would run the business side of Twitter, he has expressed a preference for making money from subscriptions.

Analysts doubt that Twitter users would flock to pay for premium content or features such as retweeting posts when social media platforms such as Facebook are free of charge.

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As of the end of March, an average 229 million people used Twitter daily, an increase of nearly 16 percent from the first three months of last year, Twitter said in the filing.

The user growth was driven in part by the war in Ukraine, with people using the service to find news and support, the company told regulators.

“We believe that our long-term success depends on our ability to improve the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” the company said in the filing.

Efforts toward that goal include fighting abuse, harassment, spam and “malicious automation,” or when software instead of people manages accounts, Twitter told regulators.

Musk has said he would make fighting such automated “bots” at Twitter a priority.

Twitter estimated that false or spam accounts made up less than five percent of its daily active users in the first quarter of this year, the filing said.

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Interest in leaving Twitter grows as Musk’s grip tightens

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Twitter is changing under new owner Elon Musk

Twitter is changing under new owner Elon Musk – Copyright AFP/File Ben STANSALL

Analysis of Google Trends data reveals that web search trends for ‘Delete Twitter Account’ in the U.S. grew 335 percent on 1st week of November, 2022, around the same day when Elon Musk officially bought Twitter for $44 billion. Atypical for a takeover on this scale, the process was played out in public.

Many of the concerns are connected with the apparent right-wing shift in terms of the social media platform’s ethos that is being constructed as the result of Musk’s acquisition.

This finding came from a business-to-business networking site called SeeBiz. The company also saw a major increase in Google web search trends for other variations like “deactivate twitter”, “delete twitter”, “how to deactivate twitter”, “deactivate twitter account” etc. All the search term variations related to delete twitter are following same increasing trend as per the Google.

Elon Musk dubbed himself ‘Chief Twit’ in his Twitter profile and listed his location as the company’s San Francisco headquarters, as the deadline nears for him to complete his buyout. – Copyright AFP Hector RETAMAL

According to Richard Seymour writing in The Guardian, Musk has not purchased Twitter as the outcome of sound business analysis. Instead, this is part of political project and the consequences are unlikely to be positive. Seymour writes that Musk: “Notoriously rules by fear, breaking the law, busting unions and firing employees who criticise him. He appears to want to establish the same pattern at Twitter, based on his apparently unassailable conviction that he knows best.”

The chaos surrounding Elon Musk and his Twitter takeover seems to have upset a lot of the social media platform’s user base. Similar increase in trend these terms was also seen in the last week of April 2022, when Twitter initially announced that it had come to an agreement with Elon Musk.

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Analysis was also performed on the same trend in Google search volume as well:

Keywords and phrases Jul-22 Aug-22 Sep-22 Oct-22 Increase %
delete twitter account 60,500 60,500 49,500 110,000 94%
deactivate twitter 4,400 4,400 3,600 8,100 96%
delete twitter 5,400 5,400 4,400 12,100 139%
how to delete twitter 6,600 6,600 3,600 6,600 18%
how to deactivate twitter 3,600 2,900 2,900 5,400 72%
deactivate twitter account 1,600 1,600 1,300 2,900 93%
how to delete your twitter account 2,400 2,400 1,900 3,600 61%
how to delete twitter account permanently 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,900 90%
how to delete my twitter account 1,600 1,300 1,300 3,600 157%
how do I delete my twitter account 1,900 1,900 1,600 8,100 350%

In the U.S., the reaction to the buyout has been split along partisan lines, with praise for Musk’s planned reforms and vision for the company, particularly his calls for greater free speech coming from those of a conservative leaning. In contrast, Musk has received harsh criticism over fears of a potential rise in misinformation, disinformation, harassment, and hate speech on the platform, from those of a liberal or social democratic persuasion.

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