Elon Musk, the new Twitter chief, welcomed back banned users to the platform a few days back, forcing industry experts to sour on Twitter’s ad revenue predictions.
Musk’s amnesty of suspended Twitter accounts is the latest controversial headline in a barrage of bad press since he took the helm, with his huge staff layoffs making the biggest waves.
The not-for-profit watchdog, Media Matters, reported that 50% of Twitter’s largest advertisers have fallen away since the amnesty announcement.
Musk himself dropped the bombshell that, “Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter.”
The Twitter exodus is largely due to advertiser concerns that the new regime will go lax on content moderation, thus making it a favourite platform for hate-speech, conspiracy theories and transforming into a general storehouse of blatant misinformation.
Two of the biggest banned account holders, Donald Trump and Ye (Kanye), were welcomed back, each previously thrown out for well-known infractions: the former for inciting violence and the latter for anti-Semitic diatribes.
Industry experts fear that Twitter’s further relaxing of free speech rules will scare off its remaining advertisers, killing its bottom line. Top brands like General Motors, United Airlines and Audi have already abandoned the platform – who’s next?
Logic would seem to bear that Musk needs advertisers more than they need him (though logic is rarely involved in Twitterland, or in any social media platforms, for that matter). And TikTok remains a major challenger, continuing to innovate with new ways to attract advertisers.
But with new initiatives such as charging a monthly fee for users to become and stay verified, it’s obvious that Musk is moving the platform away from its ad revenue past and onto a subscription-based model.
While Musk’s move to lift account bans creates new brand safety concerns for advertisers, there’s a chance that he might make his goal of attracting more users a reality by opening the platform to anyone and everyone.
What will advertisers do then? Will they need him again?
It’s tough to bet against a man who has launched four successful businesses. But if success is counted on ethical terms, then where does that leave Twitter?