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Will advertisers flee a ‘free speech’ Twitter?

Incoming Twitter owner Elon Musk has emphasised his belief that “free speech” is critical to Twitter’s future.

But there is one significant complication with running an unmoderated (or only lightly moderated) social platform supported by advertisers: and that’s the advertisers themselves. They might leave!

If Twitter were to turn back the dials on content moderation, it could allow more bullying, violent speech, hate speech, misinformation and other abusive content to gain ground. This may make Twitter less palatable to newcomers who were already wary about posting in a “public square” — an area that impacts Twitter’s ongoing concerns with flat user growth. But it could also disincentivize advertisers from investing their budgets with the platform.

According to its latest, Twitter took action on 4.8 million unique accounts from January to June 2021.

With Musk in charge, it’s a wonder where these sorts of efforts may end up. If anything, the pendulum will now swing in the other direction — away from strict moderation. And that could be bad for business.

Advertisers are fairly allergic to having their brand’s name appear alongside hate speech and abusive or dangerous content on social platforms. They’ve proven this time and time again with boycotts for this specific reason.

This is not a minor concern for Twitter to weigh as it moves forward. The company has been experimenting with a number of new monetizable products — including Twitter Spaces and subscriptions — but its business today is almost entirely supported via advertising. 

Advertisers may have a lot of power as Twitter moves forward under Musk. If the company does, in fact, tweak or revamp its moderation policies, reinstate banned users (although not Trump, apparently), or if it allows hate speech and other dangerous and abusive content to return, then advertisers may leave.

Let’s discuss: Do you think companies will stay away from advertising on Twitter?

👾 Definitely

😐 Not sure yet

💁🏽‍♀️ They’ll be fine


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