Civil rights groups slam Musk’s mass Twitter layoffs, urge companies to pause ads

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Leaders of dozens of civil rights and other advocacy groups are criticizing Elon Musk’s mass layoffs at Twitter, saying they undermine the commitments he made to the organizations to keep safety and election integrity measures in place on the platform ahead of Election Day.

Reports on Thursday indicated Musk planned to slash roughly half of Twitter jobs. The layoffs, which were widely reported and indicated by staff on the platform itself, sparked uproar, and pushed the civil rights groups to escalate their call to advertisers to pause all ads on Twitter.

Color of Change President Rashad Robinson, one of the leaders Musk met with earlier this week, said the Twitter CEO seemed “genuine and sincere” at the time, but the groups were clear that if he broke the commitments he made they would ramp up pressure.

“We were clear that actions speak louder than words, and here we are with his actions that are much louder and much more consequential than anything he said at the meeting,” Robinson said. 

More than 60 civil rights groups are urging advertisers to pause ads on Twitter, ramping up their call earlier this week for companies to suspend ads if Musk followed through on his indications to ease up content moderation on the site. 

Already, advertisers are pulling back on the platform. The Associated Press reported on Thursday that General Mills and Audi are among companies pausing ads on the platform.

“[Advertisers] need to drop Twitter and Elon Musk needs to demonstrate and earn that trust back and earn that business back,” said Angelo Carusone, president of the left-learning watchdog group Media Matters.

Musk on Friday pushed back on the coalition’s pressure campaign, acknowledging Twitter has seen a “massive drop in revenue” amid the effort while maintaining that “nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists.”

Jessica González, co-CEO of Free Press and a participant of Musk’s meeting earlier this week, said that the staff cuts alone indicate that Musk can’t moderate content at the level he committed he would maintain.

“He cannot enforce content moderation policies if he doesn’t have the staff to do so. AI alone cannot solve these problems,” she said, adding that Twitter was already under-resourced to enforce content moderation policies before Friday’s layoffs.

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