Civil rights groups say Elon Musk blames himself for Twitter’s ad problems


Leaders of major civil rights groups deny allegations from Elon Musk, who said they broke an agreement with him by encouraging companies to stop advertising on Twitter.

Musk tweeted Tuesday that “a grand coalition of political/social activist groups agreed not to try to kill Twitter by starving us of advertising revenue if I agreed to this condition. They broke the deal.”

Musk did not comment on the agreement. He responded to one of his followers, who accused Twitter’s new owner of lying when he promised in October that he would form a content moderation board and that “there will be no major content decisions or account recovery before that board meets.”

Over the weekend, following an informal poll on Twitter, Musk and the platform reinstated the account of former President Donald Trump, who was permanently expelled under previous management following the January 6 riot at the Capitol.

Twitter’s 2021 leaders feared that Trump’s presence and continued use of the site could lead to more violence as he continued to falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Earlier this month, multiple civil rights groups urged advertisers to pause ads on Twitter after a spike in hate speech on the site and after the company laid off thousands of employees. .

Derrick Johnson, CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Tuesday in response to Musk’s claims that civil rights groups would “never make such a deal” and that “democracy always comes first.”

“The decisions being made on Twitter are dangerous, and it is our duty, as it has been since our founding, to speak out against threats to our democracy,” Johnson said. “Hate speech and violent conspiracies cannot have a safe haven.”

In a statement to CNBC, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation echoed Johnson’s sentiment, saying there was “no such deal” with Musk.

“Musk is losing advertisers for acting irresponsibly, cutting content moderation teams that help protect brands and cutting out the sales teams responsible for maintaining relationships with advertisers,” said GLAAD. “The main person responsible for the exodus of Twitter advertisers is Elon Musk.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of the global social action agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told CNBC he found Musk’s tweet “vague.” The SWC, along with 180 other nongovernmental organizations, sent a letter to Musk last week urging Twitter to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism to “worsen the marketing capabilities of anti-Semites on the social media platform.”

Cooper said the letter “was not a threat” and that the groups did not “threaten a boycott” against Twitter.

“We’re actually asking Elon Musk, who we all know is quite a creative person, to take leadership in this area,” Cooper said. He said his organization has seen a noticeable increase in anti-Semitic content over the past two weeks.

According to internal Twitter communications obtained by CNBC, agencies and brands that stopped advertising on Twitter after Musk acquired the company are now awaiting updates on changes in the company’s leadership, particularly teams working on brand safety. They also want answers to questions about how Twitter Blue verification will work in the future and how Twitter plans to prevent brand impersonation.

Under Musk’s leadership, Twitter rolled out and immediately rolled back a Twitter Blue Verified subscription service after users who purchased the badges could impersonate celebrities, politicians and brands. For example, an account created in the likeness of a pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly published bogus tweets stating “we are pleased to announce that insulin is now free.” The company rushed to correct the misinformation and have the impersonator’s account suspended.

Advertiser concerns are not limited to the issues raised by civil rights leaders. They also wanted assurance that Twitter is safe from hackers, with so many employees resigning or being laid off, and asking for more communication from new leadership about product and company changes.

WATCH: Musk says Twitter Blue will relaunch on November 29

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