Elon Musk, who once vowed to make Twitter the “most respected advertising platform,” has only owned Twitter for a little over half a year. But his time at the helm as owner and CEO has already created a huge crater in the company’s ad sales, new reporting finds, as staff fear that changes like allowing more hate speech to flourish on the platform may be impacting company finances.
According to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, the company’s advertising revenue between April and May was 59 percent lower than it was the previous year, at $88 million. The document also showed that the company is falling short of weekly sales projections in the U.S., by as much as 30 percent at times. For this month, the company is forecasting ad sales to be down by 56 percent each week compared to the same time in 2022.
Prior to Musk’s takeover, advertisers provided about 90 percent of Twitter’s revenue.
Ad sales staff said in interviews with the Times that they fear that dramatic changes to the website made by Musk since he took over in late October have precipitated the drop in revenues, with hate speech playing a seemingly major role.
After Musk took ownership, there was an immediate, multiplicative rise in hate speech on the platform. Ever since, the company has made multiple moves to platform neo-Nazis and white supremacists, while also almost explicitly boosting right wing voices on the platform by prioritizing Twitter Blue subscribers in users’ feeds.
At the same time, the company has eliminated policies like the one aimed at combating the “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals” — all while Musk himself has participated in hateful speech against trans people, despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that he has a trans daughter.
Experts say that these changes can make advertisers squirm, fearing that their ads will be served next to tweets spewing anti-LGBTQ or racist hatred.
Staff say that a rise in pornography on the website and online gambling and marijuana ads may also be contributing to the plunge in revenue.
Musk has additionally made a number of business decisions that are potentially turning away clients. He has fired and squeezed out sales executives and laid off over 80 percent of the staff overall, many of whom may have directly worked with clients.
Last week, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, resigned after Musk posted a series of extremist anti-trans tweets. In recent months, Musk has tweeted in support of antisemitic conspiracy theories around George Soros. In May, he lent his support to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who used Twitter to launch DeSantis’s 2024 presidential campaign — an announcement that was riddled with glitches and widely regarded as completely botched.
These problems are set to be inherited by the incoming CEO, Linda Yaccarino, who reports have uncovered has reportedly started weeks earlier than expected on Monday, the same day that the Times report was released.