This recent spate of antisemitic content on X, and the juxtaposition of big-brand ads next to it, only underscores to advertisers that X is a risky bet, experts argue. “Even with those tools, if you’re an advertiser right now you’re thinking, there’s quite literally nothing I can do on this platform to improve my experience,” Carusone says.
“The problem with X is not only that there’s misinformation and antisemitic content on the platform and other hateful content as well, but that it’s being spread by Musk himself,” says Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst for social media at Insider Intelligence, a market research firm.
“The brand safety concern for advertisers isn’t just about the content, but about the platform and the leadership.” Enberg argues that Musk has treated the company like something he could re-make in his own image, not understanding that “what he wants and what he seemingly believes is not necessarily aligned with what users and advertisers on the platform want and believe.”
Under Musk’s leadership X is expected to see an unprecedented 54 percent drop in advertising revenue, which previously accounted for more than 90 percent of the company’s total.
Even before Musk took ownership of then-Twitter, experts worried his particular brand of free speech absolutism would lead to a flood of trolls and hate speech on the platform. In his first weeks as owner, Musk laid off nearly everyone working on trust and safety, the teams responsible for ensuring that hate speech, violence, and inappropriate content stay off the platform (and hate speech did, in fact, increase under Musk’s leadership). Musk’s lax approach to content moderation also nearly got the platform banned during the 2022 presidential runoffs in Brazil, the platform’s third largest market.
In response, advertisers began to flee, worried about the brand safety risks of their products appearing next to hateful or inflammatory posts. Since joining X as CEO earlier this year, Yaccarino, formerly global advertising lead at NBCUniversal, has seemingly been hampered in her ability to woo back advertisers by Musk’s decisions. And while X has claimed it was regaining advertisers, an October study from Media Matters found that X’s 100 largest advertisers were spending 90 percent less than they did before Musk’s takeover.