Despite Twitter’s repeated claims that hate speech and abuse, and thus negative brand exposure risk, has reduced since Elon Musk took over on the app, the signs coming out of Twitter HQ proceed to suggest the alternative.
This week, Twitter lost not one but two executives that had been in charge of trust and safety on the platform, each of whom had been vocal supporters of Elon’s ‘free speech’ reformation. The departures got here consequently of Musk overruling of the Twitter team’s decision to limit the promotion of a documentary about gender transition, and the emerging ‘gender ideology movement’.
As per various reports, Twitter had initially offered to host an exclusive premiere of the documentary, titled ‘What is a Woman?’, which would come with paid promotion of the project. But after reviewing the content of the video, Twitter’s trust and safety execs opted to back away from the deal, on account of concerns that it could possibly be viewed as hate speech based, specifically, on its content around misgendering.
Elon Musk has been a vocal critic of gender affirmation, and in particular, of gender transition surgery for children. And after he was directly questioned about Twitter’s decision to distance itself from the documentary, Musk then stepped in to overrule the team’s approach, and implement more lax rules around the identical.
Commenting & deliberate sharing will probably be allowed. Sensitive content just won’t be pushed to people unless they ask for it or a friend sends it to them.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 2, 2023
Not only that, but Musk also retweeted the documentary to his 141 million followers, and pinned it to the highest of his profile for max exposure.
The back and forth seemingly caused a big rift inside Twitter’s brand safety team, and each Ella Irwin, the top of trust and safety on the platform, and AJ Brown, the chief of brand safety, have since each left the corporate.
Irwin, in particular, had develop into a key spokeperson for Twitter 2.0, as Musk’s changes prompted angst and concern amongst ad partners. Irwin was tasked with reassuring brands, and maintaining advertiser trust – but with Twitter ad revenue declining by 50% for the reason that takeover, clearly, Irwin was already facing an uphill battle.
As Musk continues to reform the foundations based on his own personal ideology, while also overseeing the reinstatement of former users that had been banned for spreading hate speech, misinformation, and worse, the challenge before Twitter’s brand safety team clearly stays significant, and these latest departures will do little to calm already concerned organizations.
Add to this the proven fact that Twitter is now forcing brands to pay for Twitter Blue to even advertise in the app, and it does appear to be a tough sell, so it’s no big surprise to see much more Twitter execs depart.
So what does that mean for brand safety on the platform?
Well, it’s clearly not an excellent thing. Both Irwin and Brown were experienced operators, that had been with Twitter for a while, and the loss of their expertise will probably be felt as the corporate continues to be re-shaped in Musk’s image.
Then again, with latest Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino coming in shortly, possibly a shake-up was on the cards either way – though this can even add to Yaccarino’s challenge in reassuring ad partners that Musk’s latest way forward for the app is a positive step, and won’t increase the danger of negative exposure.
The available evidence across the rise, or not, of hate speech in the app stays inconclusive, with external reports suggesting that hate speech is on the rise via tweet, while Musk and his team say that it’s reduced. Quite a bit of that comes all the way down to the methodology applied – however the proven fact that Twitter keeps losing the staff in charge of representing it on this element does seem to point that even they are usually not confident that it’s taking the proper motion on this front.
Really, each brand could have to make its own decision on the potential risks. But the indications, I’d say, are usually not great, depending in your view of Elon’s approach.
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