Commentary

Twitter's Hate Speech With Ad Messages Nearby?

Elon Musk says he is not interested in advertisers who “make demands” -- and poker players across the table must be wondering whether Musk, the majority owner of Twitter, is holding some pretty lame cards.

Define “demands” -- versus what an advertisers believe is necessary to make a deal on the social media platform. Seems Musk is in for -- or wants -- a fight.

If Musk can't commit, for example, that an advertising message will not appear near “hateful” content, is that really a demand? Maybe it is just a requirement. 

All that must seem foreign to Linda Yaccarino, chairman of global advertising/partnerships for NBCUniversal, who was interviewing him recently. This isn’t anywhere near the way linear TV/CTV businesses are run. 

It sounds like Musk believes the effort to bring back advertisers to the platform still has a long way to go.

According to a number of independent analyses, anywhere from 50% to 60% of the big brand marketers are still staying away.

He says advertisers are mostly back -- repeatedly citing one company, Apple, that has returned.

At the same time, he talks about a “sensible middle ground.”

Marketers have been essentially scared away from Twitter by Musk's full-throated effort when it comes to a no-holds barred “freedom of speech.” Screaming fire in a crowd theater must be okay, then.

A number of reports and analysis say hate speech on Twitter has actually risen under Musk. At the same time, he says it will look to be curtailed whenever possible.

Considering all the departures from Twitter, one would need to wonder what exact protections are in place.

Musk says he will work with advertisers on ad placement. Politics aside, one must worry about these safeguards going forward. All it takes is one misstep in ad placement, and marketers can get big headaches.

Musk reiterated his earlier remarks about Twitter offering freedom of speech and not freedom of reach.

What does that mean to Musk? That someone could "walk into the middle of Times Square and deny the Holocaust" -- but that doesn't mean that needs to be promoted to millions of people. 

"So I think people should be allowed to say pretty outrageous things that are within the bounds of the law, but then that doesn't get amplified -- it doesn't get, you know, a ton of reach."

In crumbling linear TV-land, we know “reach” is a different thing. Wouldn't want that to confuse potential marketers in any negotiation -- or demand.

In other words, some “content” on a social media site should have limited awareness and usage. 

And if you don't want to tag these messages with labels that say, for example, “This is possible hate speech,” what else can you offer?

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