Musk seeks to reassure advertisers on Twitter after chaos

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Elon Musk sought to reassure big companies announcing on Twitter on Wednesday that his chaotic takeover of the social media platform will not harm their brands, acknowledging that some “dumb things” could happen on his path to creating what it says is a better, safer user experience.

The latest erratic move on the minds of major advertisers – on whom the company depends for its revenue – was Musk’s decision to abolish a new “official” label on high profile Twitter accounts just hours after it was introduced.

Twitter on Wednesday began adding gray labels to prominent accounts, including brands like Coca-Cola, Nike and Apple, to indicate they are authentic. A few hours later, the tags started to fade.

“Besides being an aesthetic nightmare when looking at the Twitter feed, it was just another way to create a two-class system,” Tesla’s billionaire CEO told advertisers in a chat. an hour streamed live on Twitter. “That didn’t solve the main problem.”

Elon Musk’s comments were the most detailed on 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 laid off about half of its workforce. Major brands such as General Motors, United Airlines, General Mills and others have temporarily halted buying ads on the platform as they watch whether Musk’s plans to loosen his safeguards against speech. hatred will lead to an increase in online toxicity.

Dozens of businesses large and small have made their presence known to Twitter Space’s more than 100,000 listeners by logging in with their branded Twitter accounts. The brand includes companies such as Deutsche Bank, TD Ameritrade, gas company Chevron, car manufacturer Nissan, airline Air Canada and many others. Car brand Audi, which suspended ads on Twitter, was present, as was retailer REI, which said after the call that its ads were still on hiatus.

Musk said he was still planning a “content moderation council” representing diverse viewpoints that would tackle inappropriate content and reassure advertisers, but would take “a few months” to implement. He said it will be advisory and “not a command council.”

Lou Paskalis, longtime chief marketing and media officer and former head of global media at Bank of America, said the briefing raises questions that are likely to leave Fortune 500 advertisers uneasy.

Big advertisers’ biggest concern is brand safety and risk avoidance, he said. And Musk doesn’t seem interested in reigning over his potentially divisive Twitter persona — like his tweet before the election advising Americans to vote Republican.

“To come out like Elon did … and say ‘vote Republican since there’s a Democrat in the White House’ – I don’t know which distributor wants to come close to that,” he said.

One solution might be to hire a CEO to run the company and create stability while Musk continues to be his “Chief Twit” persona, Paskalis said.

Musk had earlier threatened by tweet a “thermonuclear name and shame” on advertisers leaving Twitter. But he took a more measured approach on Wednesday, asking them to “give it a minute and kind of see how things develop”.

“The best way to understand what’s going on with Twitter is to use Twitter,” he told the group, which was primarily represented by the head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade association.

However, the confusion on Twitter continued on Wednesday. The rollout of “official” tags hours earlier seemed arbitrary, with some politicians, news outlets and high-profile figures getting the tag and others not. In some cases, users’ ability to see an account’s “official” label seemed to depend on the country they were in.

Then the labels started to disappear.

YouTube personality and author John Green got the label, but his younger brother and “vlogging” partner Hank Green didn’t make the cut. Then John Green’s label disappeared. Another popular YouTuber, Marques Brownlee, who posts tech videos, tweeted that he got the label, then tweeted again that it was gone.

“I just killed it,” Musk replied, though at first it wasn’t clear if he was referring specifically to Brownlee’s label or the whole project.

The site’s current system of using “blue checks” to confirm an account’s authenticity will soon be phased out for those who don’t pay a monthly fee. Checkmarks will be available to anyone willing to pay for a $7.99 per month subscription, which will also include bonus features, such as fewer ads and the ability to have more visible tweets than those from non-subscribers.

The platform’s current verification system has been in place since 2009 and was created to ensure that high-level, public-facing accounts are who they say they are.

Experts have expressed concern that making the checkmark available to anyone for a fee could lead to identity theft and the spread of misinformation 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 apparent compromise.

Esther Crawford, a Twitter employee who worked on the verification overhaul, had said Tuesday on Twitter that the “official” label would be added to “select accounts” when the new system is launched.

“Not all previously verified accounts will get the ‘Official’ label and the label is not available for purchase,” Crawford said.

But after the labels started disappearing on Wednesday, she took to Twitter again to say “there are no more holy cows in products on Twitter.”

“Elon is willing to try many things – many will fail, some will succeed,” she said.

There are approximately 423,000 verified accounts under the outgoing system. Many of them are owned by celebrities, companies and politicians.

But a large portion of verified accounts are owned by individual journalists, some with small followings in local newspapers and news sites around the world. The idea was to verify journalists so that their identities could not be used to spread false information on Twitter.

Musk, who often bristles at critical media coverage, objected to this use of the tool on Wednesday, saying he wanted to elevate “citizen journalism” and the “voice of the people” above publications that, in his view, had too much influence on the definition of “Western journalism”. story.” Journalism professionals generally view Musk’s concept of elevating “citizen journalists” as dangerous because it ignores the need for standards, including fact-checking, that responsible news organizations uphold.

—Matt O’brien, Mae Anderson and Barbara Ortutay, Associated Press

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