Elon Musk suffers a new blow as the government withdraws millions of dollars in Twitter advertising

The government has stopped advertising on Twitter, a new blow to Elon Musk as the social network faces an exodus from major brands.

In recent months, departments have stopped buying ads on Twitter (now known as X), a social media platform.

The decision was made before the company was dragged into a row about anti-Semitism that erupted last week, which saw advertisers such as Apple and Disney pull ads.

Sources said that the decision was commercial, and related to the effectiveness in advertising on Twitter. It wasn’t a reaction to Mr Musk’s recent remarks, which led to the White House granting a reprieve last week.

The government’s decision not to advertise on the platform, while unrelated to anti-Semitism allegations, will only compound Mr Musk’s difficulties as he struggles with a slumping advertising revenue.

According to a Freedom of Information Request, Whitehall departments spent £5.4m in 2022 on Twitter ads.

The company spent the most during the first months of the year during the vaccination booster programme. However, it continued to spend hundreds and thousands of pounds per month on Twitter ads into December after Mr Musk purchased the company.

Sources said that the decision to stop advertising was made several months ago. Cabinet Office confirmed the government no longer runs adverts on Twitter.

According to Meta’s Advertising Library, government accounts continue advertising heavily on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, promoting topics such as tax-free childcare or rights for tenants of social housing. The government spent £20.5m last year on Facebook and Instagram ads.

Twitter is in turmoil after a corporate boycott grew following Mr Musk’s apparent endorsement of an anti-Semitic tweet on the service. He responded to a tweet accusing Jews of spreading “hatred” against whites, calling it “the truth”. The White House accused Mr Musk of spreading “abhorrent anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic hate” after his comments.

Media Matters, a campaign group, also claims that ads from Apple and IBM appeared next to pro Nazi content.

Musk announced on Saturday that he will file a “thermonuclear suit against Media Matters, and ALL those who conspired to this fraudulent attack against our company”.

Many advertisers cut their spending even before the last week due to concerns about how the company moderates its posts. Rishi sunak conducted an interview with Mr Musk following this month’s AI Summit, where they discussed topics such as the company’s crowdsourced method of fighting misinformation.

Mr Musk said that the company has lost half its advertising revenue, since he bought it for $44bn last year. According to an employee-share scheme, its valuation has fallen to $19bn.

Linda Yaccarino travelled to London in early October to court advertisers. She was the former ad executive that Mr Musk appointed as X’s chief executive this year.

Twitter/X has not responded to a comment request.

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