Toxic social media accounts attract users, generate traffic and can thereby be very profitable. US-based non-profit Center for Countering Digital Hate now says research shows Twitter stands to make up to $19 million a year from ads on just ten toxic reinstated accounts.
Twitter has, under its new owner Elon Musk, introduced less strict rules for what can be said on the social media network and users, who have had their accounts blocked because of hate speech etc including ex-president Donald Trump, have had their accounts returned.
“Since announcing his policy of a “general amnesty” for banned Twitter users in November, Elon Musk has reinstated tens of thousands of accounts, including neo-Nazis, white supremacists, misogynists and spreaders of dangerous conspiracy theories”, the organisation’s report says.
The Center says its research provides “further evidence that Musk’s decision to welcome them back is driven by a desperate drive for revenues”.
The definition of free speech on Twitter has been an issue since Musk bought the company last year. He described himself as a free speech absolutist. He later clarified that Twitter cannot become a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences.
He later added that users, having had their accounts blocked, will get them back as long as they have not broken the law. But he did not specify which law he was referring to.
Advertisers, providing the majority of Twitter’s revenue, were anyway worried and many of them paused their advertising on Twitter waiting to see what will come out of Musk’s changes.
By analyzing new publicly available figures on tweet impressions, the Center estimates that just ten reinstated accounts renowned for publishing hateful content and dangerous conspiracies will generate up to $19 million a year in advertising revenue for Twitter.
“The analysis shows that the ten accounts have already amassed 2.5 billion tweet impressions since Twitter rolled out publicly visible impression-counts on 15th December 2022, putting them on track to reach 20 billion impressions over the course of a year.”
The Center says it has “found ads appearing next to toxic content from each of these reinstated accounts, showing how companies are putting their brand safety and consumer trust at risk by continuing to advertise on Twitter.”
The ten reinstated accounts were selected to highlight the various kinds of problematic content like misogyny videos, anti-vaxxers, neo-Nazi statements, conspiracy theorists and climate change deniers.
“The data shows that, on an average day, tweets from the ten accounts received a combined total of 54 million impressions. Projecting this average across 365 days, the accounts can be expected to reach nearly 20 billion impressions over the course of a year.”