Welcome to Twitter’s “for-all” hellscape

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Welcome to a new section of Nightcap, which I’ll tentatively call “Wait a minute, what?” where I ask tough questions.

Questions like “Are you kidding me?” and really?”

Today’s topic: Real Nazis on Twitter in 2022.

If you’ve wisely spent your weekend not reading the internet, you may have missed the latest on the literal neo-Nazi that was welcomed on Twitter.

On Friday, Twitter reinstated the account of Andrew Anglin, a self-confessed white supremacist who founded the neo-Nazi website The daily striker. Anglin is, as you might guess from his whole “being a white supremacist” thing, a troll who got booted from Twitter a decade ago.

And if you think how OK sure, but who cares, I don’t even use Twitter… ready.

They might not care about Twitter or the trolls that spew hate and send death threats to journalists (true story!). But this is an important business story because of what it says about the site’s CEO.

Elon Musk has owned Twitter for just over a month, and in that time he has vowed to restore some suspended accounts on a “free speech” basis, without allowing the site to be turned into a “free-for-all hellscape.”

It’s not going great.

Under Musk, the volume of hate speech on Twitter has increased dramatically, according to a study released Friday by two monitoring groups.

  • Daily use of racial slurs against black people is three times the 2022 average, the researchers said.
  • Insults against gay men have increased by 58%.
  • Anti-trans language is up 62%.
  • Anti-Semitic content is also on the rise, according to the Anti-Defamation League. (And no, it’s not all from Kanye West, although the rapper, now known as Ye, suspended his account again last week.)
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Musk responded to a New York Times article about the research by tweeting “absolutely wrong.” He claims that “Hate Speech Impressions,” aka the number of times a tweet containing hate speech has been viewed, has declined since he took the helm.


What Musk never seemed to realize is that advertisers and users alike don’t want to hang out with the likes of Andrew Anglin. It’s bad for business, bad for society, bad all round.

So far, Musk has taken a minimal, ad hoc, deeply subjective approach to content moderation.

For example: Musk said he would not reinstate Alex Jones, the far-right conspiracy theorist who once claimed the Sandy Hook massacre was staged, because Musk was personally offended by him. (Specifically, Musk said he has “no mercy for anyone who would use the deaths of children for profit.”)

All in all, Elon Musk is the only person who decides what’s offensive on Twitter, and when there’s trauma that exists outside of his own lived experience, it doesn’t seem to count.

Advertisers, who make up 90% of Twitter’s revenue, don’t like that.

According to the New York Times, Twitter’s US ad revenue in the first week of the World Cup was 80% below internal expectations – usually a huge traffic event for the company.

Musk’s chaotic behavior itself worries some brands. GM stopped advertising on Twitter this fall, asking for assurances that its data would not be shared with Tesla, according to the Times, citing two people familiar with the situation.

bottom line: Twitter remains an influential platform for politicians, academics, journalists and celebrities. But Musk’s sphere of influence is much larger. He is the CEO behind the vast majority of electric vehicles on the US road; he wants to dig holes in the ground and solve the “soul-destroying traffic”; he has already sent people into space; He believes his SpaceX will save humanity by colonizing Mars.

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At this point, nobody in the business world has the luxury of ignoring Musk.

It’s a pilot market. Travel demand is booming and commercial airlines are understaffed, which is why Delta just offered its pilots a 34% cumulative salary increase over three years, Reuters reports. If approved by Delta pilots, the deal is expected to serve as a benchmark for similar contract negotiations at United and American.

The West is making its biggest push yet to choke off Russia’s oil revenues, which have so far softened the impact of economic sanctions on the country.

Two big topics today:

1. Europe boycotts all sea imports of Russian crude oil.

2. The US, UK, EU and their allies put a price cap on Russian crude oil to cap Kremlin revenues and allow countries like China and India to continue buying Russian oil.

What happens next, writes my colleague Julia Horowitz, will likely depend on the reaction from Moscow.

What is the goal?

Despite unprecedented Western sanctions on various industries, Russia’s war chest has been replenished from oil revenues.

After 10 months of fighting in Ukraine, Russia still brings in an estimated $560 million a day in crude oil revenues even after Europe drastically reduced its imports.

China and India, among others, are still buying surplus barrels of Russian oil, which has been cheaper since Western traders started shunning it. This is where the price cap comes into play.

The US, EU and their allies do not want Russian oil to be completely phased out – that would only push up global prices at a time when high inflation is hurting their economies. By imposing a price cap, they hope the casks can keep flowing, but the business will become less profitable for Moscow.

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The price cap is said to be enforced by companies that provide transportation, insurance and other services for Russian oil. If a buyer pays more than the $60 per barrel cap, the companies (most of which are based in Europe or the UK) would withhold their services and, in theory, prevent the oil from being shipped.

Will it work?

This is anything but certain. Countries like Poland and Estonia wanted a lower price cap, stressing that $60 is too close to the current market price for Russian oil. At the end of September, Russian Ural crude was trading just under $64 a barrel.

Enforcement could also prove difficult. A Kremlin spokesman said Monday Moscow would not recognize price caps. That could push Russian producers and customers to rely on ships and insurance providers outside of Europe, in what the industry calls the “shadow fleet”.

bottom line: Market analysts say the impact on oil prices is difficult to predict. Due to the relatively generous price cap, Russia could continue to find buyers. But it could also cut output, reduce global supply and create some decidedly unwanted uncertainties at a time when economies around the world are facing potential recessions.