When “Chief Twit” Elon Musk launched a poll to decide whether to reinstate Donald Trump’s Twitter account, many wondered what happened to Musk’s plan to form a “widely diverse” content moderation council to help him weigh any decisions to reverse permabans. He had announced that plan after meeting with civil rights groups earlier this month but had never mentioned it since. It took four days of Trump not tweeting before Musk finally provided an update on that oversight council that he never formed.
In a tweet seemingly blaming activists for Twitter’s advertising woes, Musk claimed that he had only promised to form the council on the condition that activists promised to stop pushing advertisers to boycott his platform.
“A large coalition of political/social activist groups agreed not to try to kill Twitter by starving us of advertising revenue if I agreed to this condition,” Musk tweeted. “They broke the deal.”
Some activists who attended the meeting tweeted to confirm that they never made such a deal with Musk, including Free Press co-CEO Jessica Gonzalez, who helped drive a #StopToxicTwitter coalition pressuring Twitter’s top 20 advertisers to boycott the platform.
“Not sure who Musk is talking about here, but I met with him a few weeks ago with civil rights leaders, and I also co-lead the #StopToxicTwitter coalition that is calling on advertisers to pause ads until he rights the ship,” Gonzalez tweeted. “I never made any such deal.”
NAACP President Derrick Johnson backed Gonzalez in his own tweet denying activists made a deal with Musk.
“We would never make such a deal,” Johnson tweeted. “Democracy always comes first. The decisions being made at Twitter are dangerous, and it is our duty, as it has been since our founding, to speak out against threats to our democracy. Hate speech and violent conspiracies can have no safe harbor.”
When Ars previously reported on the meeting between Musk and activists, it was immediately clear that Gonzalez planned to continue promoting the #StopToxicTwitter campaign. Gonzalez said at that time that Musk’s promises, including forming a council to review content decisions, were “just the beginning of a long process” to hold Twitter accountable for upholding community standards.
Johnson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but Gonzalez told Ars that Musk is using activists as a scapegoat for his own poor decision-making regarding brand safety.
“Musk is losing advertisers because he’s acted irresponsibly, slashing content moderation teams that help keep brands safe and gutting the very sales teams responsible for maintaining relationships with advertisers,” Gonzalez told Ars. “The main person responsible for the Twitter advertiser exodus is Elon Musk.”
Twitter shut down its communications department and could not be reached for comment.