Elon Musk’s Twitter faces exodus of advertisers and executives

Hateful content has skyrocketed since Mr Musk closed his acquisition of Twitter. PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO, California - Twitter is facing an exodus of executives and skittish advertisers as Elon Musk and his advisers take control of the social media company.

At least four top Twitter executives – including the chief customer officer, the head of people and diversity, and the head of product – have departed the company in recent days, according to four people with knowledge of the matter and public statements.

At the same time, advertisers – who provide about 90 per cent of Twitter’s revenue – are increasingly grappling with Mr Musk’s ownership of the platform.

The billionaire has spooked some advertisers because he has said he would loosen Twitter’s content rules, which could lead to a surge in misinformation and other toxic content.

IPG, one of the world’s largest advertising companies, issued a recommendation on Monday for clients to temporarily pause their spending on Twitter because of moderation concerns, three people with knowledge of the communication said.

IPG’s recommendation followed an announcement from General Motors (GM), which said last week that it was temporarily suspending its advertising on Twitter. GM is a competitor of Mr Musk’s electric vehicle company, Tesla.

IPG, a holding company with several agencies handling advertising spending, has clients such as American Express, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Mattel and Spotify.

More than 40 civil rights groups also sent an open letter to 20 of Twitter’s top advertisers on Tuesday, urging them to suspend their advertising on Twitter if Mr Musk throws out the platform’s content moderation safeguards.

Twitter has been in disarray as it adjusts to a new reality under Mr Musk, who closed his US$44 billion (S$62 billion) buyout of the company last week.

Mr Musk fired Twitter’s CEO, its chief financial officer and others before moving quickly to install close confidants and trusted engineers from his other companies at the social media firm.

A Twitter spokesman declined to comment, while Mr Musk did not respond to a request for comment. IPG also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The executives who left Twitter in recent days include Ms Sarah Personette, the chief customer officer, who managed the company’s relationships with advertisers; Ms Dalana Brand, the head of people and diversity; Mr Jay Sullivan, the head of product; and Mr Nick Caldwell, the executive responsible for core technologies like infrastructure.

Ms Personette tweeted on Tuesday she had resigned her post last week. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Her departure comes as Mr Musk’s team is set to meet with advertisers this week in New York.

“So many great ideas on how to increase joy on the platform!” tweeted Mr Jason Calacanis, an angel investor and podcast host, on Monday, saying that Twitter was having “a very productive day” meeting with marketers and advertisers.

Mr Calacanis is one of several Silicon Valley figures who are working with Mr Musk to dig in to his new purchase. He and Mr David Sacks, co-founder and partner at venture capital firm Craft Ventures, have appeared on Twitter’s internal company directory, according to a source who viewed the directory.

A media buyer at a major ad agency confirmed a meeting was scheduled for this week with Mr Musk’s team.

The meetings will be crucial to reassuring advertisers who have fretted about whether Mr Musk will reverse the ban on former US president Donald Trump and possibly lead to an even greater level of divisive rhetoric on the platform.

Already, experts have noticed hateful content has skyrocketed since Mr Musk closed his acquisition of Twitter.

Use of the n-word has increased by nearly 500 per cent on Twitter, said the Network Contagion Research Institute on Friday, which identifies “cyber-social threats”.

Mr Musk has also attempted to reassure advertisers.

“Twitter’s commitment to brand safety is unchanged,” he tweeted on Monday. NYTIMES, REUTERS

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