Twitter owner Elon Musk is blaming activists for advertisers fleeing in droves ― insisting their attempts to “destroy free speech in America,” not his bad business decisions, are hurting the company.
Musk admitted in a tweet Friday that Twitter has suffered a “massive drop in revenue” as advertisers fall off.
A coalition called Stop Toxic Twitter, consisting of more than 60 civil rights groups including the Anti-Defamation League, has urged businesses not to support Twitter given massive layoffs and Musk’s failure to take action to prevent the platform from becoming a “superspreader” of racism.
“We are witnessing the real-time destruction of one of the world’s most powerful communication systems,” Nicole Gill, executive director of Accountable Tech, one of the groups in the coalition, said in a statement. “Elon Musk is an erratic billionaire who’s dangerously unqualified to run Twitter.”
Despite Musk’s oft-expressed support for a mostly uncensored Twitter, he tried to reassure advertisers last month that Twitter would not become a “free-for-all hellscape.”
But that appears to be what it’s becoming, with skyrocketing rates of hate speech and misinformation, according to social media monitors. The Network Contagion Research Institute, which analyzes messages across social media platforms, discovered that the use of the N-word on Twitter spiked nearly 500% over the 12 hours after Musk bought the company, The Washington Post reported last week.
Musk has personally disseminated dangerous lies on Twitter. On Sunday, he tweeted and then deleted a link to a baseless conspiracy theory that Paul Pelosi, husband of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, had been beaten with a hammer at the couple’s San Francisco home by a gay lover. There is no evidence the suspect, whose apparent online postings cite right-wing conspiracy theories, knew Paul Pelosi, according to law enforcement.
Reuters reported that a media buyer for a major ad agency was so concerned about that tweet that executives planned to discuss it in a meeting with Musk.
Reuters also reported that advertisers were backing off of Twitter because of a noticeable decline in users who tweet often and because of an uptick in spam-like crypto and gambling content. Advertisers also expressed concern in September about child sex abuse material on the platform, according to Reuters.
Musk is in the process of slashing up to half of Twitter’s 7,500-person workforce, meaning there will be significantly fewer staffers monitoring problematic content. Yet he insisted in his tweet that “nothing has changed with content moderation.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.