By Sheila Dang
(Reuters) -Elon Musk told advertisers on Wednesday that he aimed to turn Twitter into a force for truth and stop fake accounts, an effort to assuage brands and advertising agencies that are increasingly backing away from the social media platform.
The new Twitter owner said that paid Blue subscription accounts would become more important and prominent, and that would have the effect of discouraging spammers, who would not want to pay for that service.
Major advertisers like General Motors and General Mills have pulled their ads off Twitter following concern that Musk could loosen content moderation rules on the service.
A coalition of civil rights groups has also ramped up pressure on Twitter’s advertisers, demanding they suspend ads globally after Musk laid off roughly half of the staff. Musk blamed the coalition for “a massive drop in revenue.”
“People should look back on Twitter and consider it to be a good thing in the world,” Musk said in a “town hall” public discussion, saying he was aiming to stop fake accounts on the platform.
“If an account is engaged in trickery, we will suspend it,” he said, adding that Twitter aimed to be truthful, interesting and entertaining.
Musk has moved quickly to make changes in the Twitter app, creating some confusion. Musk said in a tweet on Wednesday that he “killed” a new “official” label for Twitter accounts, on the same day that it began rolling out.
“Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months,” he tweeted. “We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.”
Musk backtracked on the official label just a day after a product executive announced it, leading to confusion about the difference between the label and Twitter’s current blue check mark that signifies verified accounts.
On the call with advertisers, he promised faster evolution of the Twitter service, opened the possibility of allowing peer-to-peer payments and said that Twitter would allow free speech without amplifying hateful comments.
“There’s a big difference between freedom of speech and freedom of reach,” Musk said, meaning that Twitter does not intend to increase the visibility of hateful content.
(Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas and Nivedita Balu in Bangalore; writing by Peter Henderson, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Cynthia Osterman)