Elon Musk debates ad execs over Twitter’s content moderation

At a private dinner Tuesday with fewer than 20 top chief marketing officers and publishing executives, Elon Musk pushed back on data suggesting hate speech has increased at Twitter under his watch as “bogus,” insiders told On The Money.

The dinner — held in the Faena Hotel’s private wine cellar La Cava and hosted by NBCUniversal and Twitter — spanned more than three hours and focused on content moderation policies and the definition of hate speech as well as artificial intelligence, Tesla and even Mars.

Multiple sources claimed there were some heated moments, with one person at the dinner saying some executives were left “shocked” and “appalled” by Musk’s “disregard” for hate speech and felt their concerns were dismissed.

However, the sources said the conversation was ultimately productive — and the group agreed to meet again in a few months in San Francisco.

“We want to find solutions. Twitter is an important platform and no one wants it to go away,” one dinner attendee told On The Money. “People didn’t agree with everything but it was not a closed or a defensive conversation.” 

“He put himself in a forum to answer questions,” another source added. “He wanted to address peoples’ concerns.”

Elon Musk pushed back on data suggesting hate speech has increased at Twitter under his watch as “bogus,” insiders told On The Money.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Musk also said some studies that claim to measure hate speech — even one conducted by Sprinklr, a company Twitter partnered with — are “published just to attack him,” a source with knowledge of the meeting added. 

Another source said Musk was extremely open to feedback and asked serious, pointed questions to better understand people’s concerns. 

While Musk has been criticized for firing countless content moderators, he’s clapped back in recent weeks. 

Last week Musk was interviewed by BBC reporter James Clayton who claimed hate speech grew on the platform but was unable to provide a single example when challenged  by Musk. 

Musk referenced the BBC interview onstage and defended Twitter’s policies.

“The reporter was claiming he’d seen all of this hate speech on Twitter, so I asked, ‘Can you give me a single example?’ And he couldn’t — not even one,” Musk said.

Musk also made a pilgrimage to the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach for the “Possible” conference earlier this week in an effort to win back advertisers who have fled the platform after Musk’s acquisition.

After an interview on stage with Linda Yaccarino, global advertising and partnerships chair at NBCUniversal, Musk met individually with potential advertisers and then joined the dinner at La Cava.

Musk also was quick to defend Twitter’s policy and told Yaccarino, “We have adjacency controls in place that are really quite effective. Ads will not appear next to anything remotely negative. … But you must put controls in place because there is an excess of inventory that is negative.”

The mogul acknowledged there’s been a learning curve: “It’s a trainwreck sometimes.”

Since Musk took over last October, Twitter has lost 625 of its top 1,000 advertisers, according to data from marketing analytics firm Pathmatics.

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