While Elon Musk is keen to tout Twitter’s new approach to free speech, under his ‘Twitter 2.0’ plan, he also knows that there needs to be some guardrails in place for advertisers – because without them, many won’t take the risk of having their ads appear alongside potentially offensive content in the app.
Which is why Twitter’s now developing a new ad placement control dashboard, which will enable ad partners to select certain keywords that they don’t want their ads being placed alongside, in order to provide more capacity to limit unwanted brand association in the app.
As reported by Reuters:
“Twitter will roll out new controls as soon as next week to let companies prevent their ads from appearing above or below tweets containing certain keywords, the social media platform told advertisers in an email on Thursday.”
That’ll provide an additional level of brand safety – though at the same time, with the way that tweets are displayed, with many on-screen at once, it may not be enough to provide full assurance.
This is a particularly pressing area of concern for brands right now, as Twitter works to reinstate tens of thousands of accounts that had previously been banned from the app for posting offensive, harmful and dangerous content.
Twitter has also sought to reassure ad partners on this front, explaining that:
"We will not be reinstating bad actors, spam accounts and users that engaged in criminal/illegal activity."
Essentially, as Musk has stated, Twitter’s rules on what is and is not allowed to be posted to the app haven’t changed, despite his broader approach to free and open speech. And while it is letting some controversial identities back on the app, they will still be subject to the same rules, and subsequent restrictions for violations, if they fall foul of such once again.
It remains to be seen how that works in practice, with some reports already suggesting that offensive hate speech is on the rise in the app since Musk took the reigns, while some ads have already been displayed on the Twitter pages of white nationalist accounts that were reinstated as part of Musk’s amnesty plan.
On a related front, Twitter’s also considering bringing its content moderators in-house, in order to better oversee and control moderation decisions in the app.
Much of Twitter’s content moderation has traditionally been outsourced to third-party providers, due to the scale of work required, and variable language and region-based restrictions.
Musk, however, recently cut thousands of contract employees, and as it looks to scale back its labor flows, and put more reliance on automation for enforcement, it may now be more viable for the company to manage more of these decisions internally, enabling more direct control over all content decisions.
It’s a difficult balance, and while Musk says that advertisers are returning to the app, there remains a level of hesitancy, and concern among ad partners, as they wait and see how the next stage of Musk’s reformation plan play out.
If the newly reinstated users play by the rules, and don’t push the limits, maybe everything will be fine – but it’s another example of Musk’s Icarian management style, riding ever-closer to the sun, which will either see him fly on, or eviscerate his wax wings.