Elon Musk has sought to reassure major companies announcing on Twitter that his chaotic takeover of the social media platform will not harm their brands.
Elon Musk sought to reassure major companies announcing on Twitter Wednesday that his chaotic takeover of the social media platform won’t hurt their brands, acknowledging that some “dumb things” may happen en route to create what he says will be a better, safer user experience.
The latest erratic move in the minds of major advertisers — on which the company relies for revenue — was Musk’s decision to scrap a new “official” tag on high-profile Twitter accounts just hours after it was introduced.
Twitter began adding gray labels to prominent accounts on Wednesday, including brands like Coca-Cola, Nike and Apple, to indicate they are authentic. After a few hours, the stickers started to disappear.
“Apart from being an aesthetic nightmare when looking at the Twitter feed, it was just another way to create a two-tier system,” the billionaire Tesla CEO told advertisers in an hour-long conversation that was streamed live on Twitter. “It wasn’t addressing the underlying problem.”
Musk’s comments were the most expansive regarding Twitter’s future since he struck a $44 billion deal to buy the company late last month, fired its top executives almost immediately, and on Friday fired nearly half of its workforce. Major brands including General Motors, United Airlines, General Mills and others have temporarily halted buying ads on the platform as they monitor whether Musk’s plans to loosen its barriers against hate speech lead to increased toxicity online.
Dozens of companies large and small have made their presence known among the more than 100,000 listeners in the Twitter space by logging in with their brand’s Twitter accounts. Brand accounts have appeared for companies including banks Deutsche Bank, TD Ameritrade, gas company Chevron, automaker Nissan, Air Canada and many others. Automobile brand Audi, which has paused Twitter ads, was present, as was retailer REI, which said after the call that its ads were still paused.
Musk said he still plans for a “content editing board” representing diverse perspectives that would address inappropriate content and reassure advertisers, but that it would take “a few months” to put them together. He said it would be an advisory, “not a leadership council.”
Lou Pascalis, longtime chief marketing and media executive and former head of global media at Bank of America, said the briefing raised questions that will likely leave Fortune 500 advertisers jittery.
He said the biggest concern for big advertisers is brand safety and risk avoidance. And Musk seems uninterested in holding back his potentially divisive Twitter personality – like his own Tweet before the election He advised Americans to vote for Republicans.
He said, “To go out like Elon did… and say ‘Vote for Republicans because there’s a Democrat in the White House’ — I don’t know any marketers who want to approach that.”
One solution could be to appoint a CEO to run the company and create stability while Musk continues his role as the “head of Twit,” Pascalis said.
Musk was earlier Threatened to tweet “Thermonuclear name and shame” on advertisers leaving Twitter. But he took a thoughtful approach on Wednesday, asking them to “give it a minute and kind of see how things evolve.”
“The best way to understand what’s going on with Twitter is to use Twitter,” he told the group, which is mostly represented by the head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade association.
However, the confusion continued on Twitter on Wednesday. Publication of “official” labels hours earlier seemed arbitrary, with some politicians, news outlets, and well-known personalities getting this designation and others not. In some cases, whether users can see the “official” designation of the account seems to depend on which country they are in.
Then the labels started to disappear.
John Green, YouTube personality and author, earned this rating, but his younger brother and “vlogger” partner Hank Green didn’t make it. Then the John Green label disappeared. Another popular YouTuber, Marquis Brownlee, who posts videos about the technology, tweeted that he had gotten the label, then tweeted again that it had disappeared.
“I just killed him,” Musk replied, though it wasn’t clear at first whether he was specifically referring to the Brownlee brand or the entire project.
The site’s current system of using “blue checks” to confirm account authenticity will soon be gone for those who don’t pay a monthly fee. The check marks will be available to anyone willing to pay a subscription of $7.99 per month, which will also include some bonus features, such as fewer ads and the ability to have tweets that give more visibility than those from non-subscribers.
The platform’s current verification system has been in place since 2009 and was created to ensure that prominent and public accounts are the same as they say they are.
Experts have expressed concern that making the check mark available to anyone for a fee could lead to impersonation, disinformation and scams.
The gray label — a color that tends to blend into the background whether you’re using light or dark mode to scroll through Twitter — was an obvious compromise.
Esther Crawford, a Twitter employee who was working on a verification fix, had a He said Tuesday on Twitter The “Official” rating will be added to “Select Accounts” when the new system is launched.
“Not all pre-verified accounts will receive an ‘official’ rating and the label is not available for purchase,” Crawford said.
But after the labels started disappearing on Wednesday, she again took to Twitter to say “there are no more sacred cows in the product on Twitter.”
“Elon is willing to try a lot of things – many will fail and some will succeed,” she said.
There are about 423,000 verified accounts under the issued system. Many of these belong to celebrities, corporations and politicians.
But a significant portion of the verified accounts belong to individual journalists, some of whom have scant followings in local newspapers and news sites around the world. The idea was to check reporters so that their identities could not be used to spread false information on Twitter.
Musk, who is often swayed by critical news coverage, disputed this use of the tool on Wednesday, saying he wanted to raise the bar for “citizen journalism” and the “people’s voice” over publications he suggested would have too much influence in defining “Western journalism” as a narrative. Journalism professionals generally consider Musk’s concept of raising the bar for “citizen journalists” dangerous because it ignores the need for standards, including fact-checking, imposed by responsible news organizations.
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