Elon Musk is said to be laying off half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees. This doesn’t come as a surprise: Twitter’s head count seems absurdly high, and expenses will need to be cut to have any hope of generating a profit commensurate with Musk’s purchase price.
But Elon says there is more to it than that. He says Twitter’s revenue has dropped dramatically because leftists have pressured companies not to advertise on the platform:
Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists.
Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 4, 2022
That liberal activists are trying to destroy free speech is not in doubt. But this is an extreme case: liberals, not content with controlling virtually the entire press and all other major social media and tech platforms, are trying to destroy the lone possible dissenter by pressuring others to withdraw advertising support. I don’t think our history offers even a remote parallel.
The advertisers say their concern is brand preservation. They don’t want to be associated with a platform where there is a lot of inappropriate content. This guy makes the point:
Elon, Great chat yesterday, As you heard overwhelmingly from senior advertisers on the call, the issue concerning us all is content moderation and its impact on BRAND SAFETY/SUITABILITY. You say you’re committed to moderation, but you just laid off 75% of the moderation team!
— Lou Paskalis 🇺🇸 (@LouPas) November 4, 2022
The problem with this facially-neutral explanation is that Twitter has always been a cesspool. Advertisers apparently had no problem with tens of thousands of #RapeMelania tweets, or severed heads of Donald Trump, or active Twitter accounts run by terrorists, or, as Musk has complained, countless bot accounts, Russian and otherwise. But the old Twitter cesspool, being on the Left, was apparently not a threat to “brand safety.”
Musk has tried to appease advertisers by telling them nothing will change with regard to moderation, with the implicit exception that Twitter won’t continue to shut down conservatives. But that doesn’t seem to be good enough for advertisers like General Motors, L’Oreal, Volkswagen, Pfizer, Audi and General Mills, all of whom have publicly declared that they will no longer advertise on Twitter, even though nothing in particular has happened in the few days since Musk took over the company. And who knows how many other companies have quietly made the same move.
What to conclude? Hostility toward free speech, especially free speech that leans conservative or is not on board with social fads of the moment, is widespread. Sadly, it doesn’t take much pressure from far-left activists to induce major corporations to swear fealty to Leftism uber alles. In fact, I am not sure it takes any pressure at all.