Yesterday the Twitter War showed a strong sign of escalation. Elon Musk noted on Friday that his new platform’s highest-volume advertisers had stopped advertising. Now he threatens a “thermonuclear name-and-shame campaign” if advertisers do not return. If he’s serious, he will likely place the platform firmly in the “parallel economy.” He might not have wanted to do this, if his earlier letter to advertisers is any indicator. But if they force him either to “go parallel” or go under, he’ll do the former, out of sheer necessity. If that happens, the conventional economy, and the legacy media, will lose all the control they ever had over Twitter.
Current state of Twitter revenue
Reportage on the current state of the Twitter War comes from The Daily Mail and The Epoch Times. Elon Musk has now, by most estimates, fired 3,700 people – slightly less than half the staff. In response, Jack Dorsey, the founder, actually apologized to staff for “growing the company too quickly.”
Many commentators and politicians – including pResident Joe Biden – expressed “worry” that Twitter had slipped their leash. They especially noticed that the company had laid off nearly half their staff before Midterms. (The Daily Mail, in noting Biden’s “worry,” ran through a litany of lies Biden himself has told.) For his part, Elon defiantly tweeted, “Power to the people!”
But Elon also had to take note that several advertisers had quit the platform. These now include Volkswagen, General Motors, General Mills, Pfizer, Ford, and Mondelez (which now owns Nabisco and its brands). In reply, Musk took note of the shortfall in Twitter’s revenues:
One other user suggested that Twitter is lacking as an advertising platform.
Musk admitted the possibility and promised to address it.
Musk raises the stakes
But according to The Epoch Times, Musk didn’t have to wait long for the Federalist Society to notice. Federalist Fellow Mike Davis made a suggestion at 11:44 a.m. EDT:
Quoting Musk’s tweet, Davis said:
You have nearly 114,000,000 Twitter followers. Name and shame the advertisers who are succumbing to the advertiser boycotts. So we can counter-boycott them. And get your $8 monthly subscription going asap. So we can start to makeup for lost revenue now.
Davis went on, through a lengthy thread, to drive home the point about Twitter becoming a subscription service. In that way, the users would be the customers. When an on-line service is offered free of charge, the users are the product.
Hours later, Elon Musk sent this message:
Thank you. A thermonuclear name & shame is exactly what will happen if this continues.
Musk further rolled out the Twitter Blue subscription service. The new service offers at least two key privileges:
- Verification (the Blue Checkmark) with a simpler standard than having to demonstrate prior fame on Wikipedia, and
- Capacity to upload longer videos.
Subscriptions sell for $7.99 a month, though some subscribers can join for $4.99 a month. Who may subscribe at the lower rate, is not clear. Perhaps he offers the lower rate to those who already have the Blue Checkmark.
Many have alleged that some have bribed their way to the Blue Checkmark, for $15,000 a shot. Musk has expressed support for an investigation.
Thus far, Andrew Torba at Gab Social has made no comment. He has confidently predicted that Twitter will fail, and that Musk will gain nothing by trying to “appease the activists.”
Three of the largest advertisers to quit Twitter are automakers. As such they are Elon Musk’s competitors. So their decision to leave the platform could reflect their fear that Musk will shadow-ban them for that reason. But Musk doesn’t do things that way.
Enticing Twitter users to subscribe for pay would go a long way to making up for lost advertising revenue. It would also provide balance, which the old print media had, but is lacking on “free” services.
What remains unclear is how much freedom of speech users will have. At minimum, the platform will not tolerate gratuitous insults, obvious slurs, or generalizations. The real test will come whenever anyone expresses a contrary opinion on:
- The origins, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infection by SARS-CoV-2,
- Whether any SARS-CoV-2 “vaccine” is safe or unsafe, effective or ineffective, or
- How secure are elections in the United States, or even whether officials can make them more secure without making it more difficult for those eligible to vote, to vote. (The eligibility of convicts, ex-convicts, and aliens, documented or un-, are the subjects of separate debates.)
But one thing Elon Musk can and should eliminate from Twitter, is pornography. Which Gab Social does not allow.
As ever, Andrew Torba continues to wait and watch.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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