It's an understatement by now to call Elon Musk a paradox, but that's all I could think of as I read Walter Isaacson's great cover story in the October 9 edition of Time magazine, which teases his forthcoming biography on Musk, focusing mainly on Musk's attempts to get a grip on artificial intelligence before it gets a grip on all of us.
On the one hand, the story demonstrates what a visionary humanist Musk is as he battles Big Tech's efforts to push us toward trans-humanism.
On the other hand, he's not much of a humanitarian.
It's not just his latest anti-anti-defamation move, literally threatening the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) because it has put public pressure on Musk for unleashing anti-Semitic -- and other hate groups -- on Twitter/X Corp. But let me start there.
Musk is not the first social-media titan to unleash and amplify anti-Semitic bigotry, but he certainly is the most willful.
Remember ProPublica's 2017 expose revealing that Facebook's custom audience algorithm enabled advertisers to target "Jew haters?"
Well, at least that was an unintentional consequence of social-media target technology, but Facebook quickly shut it down when it was exposed.
What Musk has been doing on Twitter/X Corp. is the opposite. He is intentionally leveraging the platform to give voice to and amplify anti-Semitic hate speech, and now he's gone a step further by threatening to sue the ADL for putting public pressure on his efforts to dial up the hate speech -- going so far as to correlate it with the platform's loss of advertising revenue.
While the ADL and other advocacy groups have indeed put public pressure on Twitter/X Corp.'s descent into dangerous hate speech, Musk ironically defends it as "free speech."
Ironically, he doesn't hold the same thing true for groups like the ADL who are doing nothing more than pointing out how irresponsible and dangerous Musk's decisions have been with the platform.
Sadly, the real reason advertisers have been abandoning Twitter/X is that it has become an even more unsavory place for reputable consumer brands to show up, and in a world with many important alternative options. So, I mean, why bother?
In all my years of covering this business, I've never come across a compelling ROAS study showing that Twitter works better than other options. If anything, I'm going to guess that its underlying performance for brand marketing has eroded due to the moves Musk has made, regardless of the increase in toxic hate speech coinciding with that.
I don't have the data to back that up, but The Myers Report does.
Myers surveyed more than 500 social-media buyers and planners in July and August as part of its ongoing ad industry research and found that according to the media planner/buyer respondents, only about half (53%) said Twitter does an "adequate" job or better of delivering on their criteria, which compares to 85% who said the same thing for social media overall.
The No. 1 factor Twitter/X has been failing to deliver on was "brand safety," which was cited by 59% of the respondents.
It's too bad Myers didn't survey them on Twitter/X's role in public safety, but they did the next best thing and asked how Musk's ownership has affected their decision to spend money on Twitter/X over the next 6-12 months. You can see those results below.
I guess you can now include "Red, White & Blog," as well as The Myers Report, among the anti-Musk-Twitter/X-ownership league.