Global brands call for boycott of Twitter if content policy is not supported under Musk

Some of the nation’s biggest brands including Coca-Cola, Disney and Kraft are facing calls to boycott Twitter if the company’s soon-to-be owner, billionaire Elon Musk, withdraws review content moderation policies to curb hate speech and election misinformation.

In a letter to brands on Tuesday ahead of the NewFronts 2022 digital advertising conference, more than two dozen civil society groups said marketers should secure commitments from Twitter to uphold their policies. its most important policies, including on citizen integrity and hateful behavior, and threatened to withdraw funding if Twitter failed to comply.

“As the top advertisers on Twitter, your brand is at risk of combining with a platform that amplifies hate, extremism, health misinformation, and conspiracy theorists.” , the letter reads, adding: “Your advertising dollars could fund Musk’s fictitious project or hold him accountable.”

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In an investor filing Monday, Twitter told advertisers that “we have no plans to change our commitment to brand safety” but that the company “cannot speculate on changes that may not be made.” Elon Musk can do it after it’s over.”

The letter, first reported by CNN, urges advertisers to make their further ad deals with Twitter subject to changes to platform policies under Musk.

It offers the latest example of how some advocacy groups have relied on the immense power of corporate speech – and specifically digital advertising, the lifeblood of many tech platforms – in an effort to forces that shape the behavior of technology companies. It fueled years of growing awareness by the advertising industry that brands could face reputational damage if their ads appeared alongside white supremacist content or material. other harmful.

Tuesday’s initiative carries the echoes of a far-reaching advertising boycott in 2020, which has seen companies from Adidas to Starbucks pull their ads from Facebook for what they say is a failure in the marketplace. preventing hate speech from spreading. But unlike that campaign, the groups behind Tuesday’s letter say advertisers have the opportunity to be more proactive and strategic this time, because Musk has already announced what he plans to do with Twitter. . (The Tesla CEO and founder of SpaceX has pledged to restore “free speech” to the platform by easing content removal and account bans. He also wants to “authenticate all humans.” real” on Twitter.)

Angelo Carusone, CEO of Media Matters for America, one of the organisations, said: As advertisers prepare to negotiate forward-looking contracts with Twitter this week during the NewFronts conference, they have could protect itself from any damage to its brand following Musk’s eventual takeover. behind the letter.

“If Elon Musk comes in and removes all the brand safety protections, I think Coca-Cola could cancel their contract,” Carusone said. “It would be very revealing if Twitter refused or didn’t sign or didn’t offer those revocation options.”

Tuesday’s letter also targeted other big-name advertisers, including Apple, Best Buy and HBO — the last of which is owned by WarnerMedia, CNN’s parent company. Spokespersons for the brands did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Other organizations leading the mail campaign include tech advocacy organization Accountable Tech and feminist group UltraViolet. Meanwhile, the Center against Digital Hate, the National Hispanic Media Alliance and the digital rights group Free Press also signed the letter in support of the effort.

In addition to contractual terms that would commit Twitter to enforcing its existing policies, the letter said brands should ask Twitter – as part of any advertising agreement – not to reinstate their accounts. individuals who have been banned from the platform, such as former Presidents. Donald Trump.

Advertisers should also ask Twitter to continue to support the company’s data-driven academic research and implement safeguards to ensure spammers and other “bad guys” can’t benefit from it. benefited from Musk’s proposal for Twitter’s “open source” algorithm, the letter read.

As Musk prepares to take control of one of the world’s most influential tech platforms, Tuesday’s letter from civil society groups could find a receptive audience. Last week, according to the Financial Times, Twitter wrote a message to advertisers addressing worries about the Musk deal – and reassuring brands that Twitter will continue to be a safe place to advertise.

Nicole Gill, co-founder and chief executive officer of Accountable Tech, said that even if Musk ultimately decided against Twitter’s policies, his sole ownership of the company highlighted the strength his insurmountable strength, Nicole Gill, co-founder and chief executive officer of Accountable Tech. Gill added that because Musk has sought to pay off Twitter with loans against Tesla and Twitter shares, he may be more vulnerable to Twitter’s business downturn than he might allow. (“I’m not interested in economics at all,” Musk said of Twitter’s business.)

“The way this deal is structured, he has to care,” Gill said.

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