The Fly

#SocialStocks: Twitter and Apple spar over advertising, censorship

Musk’s purchase of Twitter under governmental pressure, Zoom could be taken out following steep decline and other notable stories from this week

Welcome to "#SocialStocks," The Fly’s weekly recap of Wall Street’s reactions to social media stock news.

GOVERNMENT SCRUTINY: CEO Elon Musk is under additional pressure from the U.S. and EU over his recently-finalized ownership of Twitter (TWTR), as regulatory authorities seek to grapple with the billionaire’s efforts to transform the platform into a freewheeling haven of free speech, the Financial Times’ Javier Espinoza, James Politi, Cristina Criddle, and Hannah Murphy reported. The European Commission threatened Musk with a ban unless the social network abides by strict content moderation laws, as U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yelllen suggested that the Biden administration was examining his purchase of the company, the authors noted.

TWITTER 2.0: Twitter said in a blog post that it is a "new company embarking on a new chapter," calling the new strategy under owner Elon Musk "Twitter 2.0." "As you’ve seen over the past several weeks, Twitter is embracing public testing," the post reads. "We believe that this open and transparent approach to innovation is healthy, as it enables us to move faster and gather user feedback in real-time. We believe that a service of this importance will benefit from feedback at scale, and that there is value in being open about our experiments and what we are learning. We do all of this work with one goal in mind: to improve Twitter for our customers, partners, and the people who use it across the world." "As we carry out this work, we want to assure you of a few things: First, none of our policies have changed. Our approach to policy enforcement will rely more heavily on de-amplification of violative content: freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach," the company added. "Our Trust & Safety team continues its diligent work to keep the platform safe from hateful conduct, abusive behavior, and any violation of Twitter’s rules. The team remains strong and well-resourced, and automated detection plays an increasingly important role in eliminating abuse. When urgent events manifest on the platform, we ensure that all content moderators have the guidance they need to find and address violative content. As we improve our policies and processes, bad actors will also develop new methods of disruption. This is not new. Our team of experts is constantly adapting to identify and defuse threats, and we are proud of our early results: impressions on violative content are down over the past month, despite the growth in overall usage on the platform. Finally, as we embark on this new journey, we will make mistakes, we will learn, and we will also get things right. Throughout, we’ll communicate openly with our users and customers, to get and share your feedback as we build."

MOVING OUT: Facebook parent Meta Platforms (META) has declined to renew its lease at 30 and 55 Hudson Yards in a move to cut expenses and reduce its workforce, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Meta currently leases more than 250,000 square feet across the two towers, but is evaluating its real estate plans as it pauses hiring.

APPLE VS. TWITTER: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticized Apple (AAPL) after Elon Musk claimed the company threatened to remove Twitter from the App Store, Sara Dorn of Forbes reported. DeSantis said this would be a "huge, huge mistake and a really raw exercise of monopolistic power," adding he believes the move would call for a congressional response. Ohio Senator-elect J.D. Vance also made comments criticizing Apple while Representative Ken Buck, Senator Marsha Blackburn, and Senator Mike Lee called on Congress to take legislative action to limit Apple’s and other tech giant’s control over the app market. Musk’s exact tweet was "Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter (TWTR) from its App Store, but won’t tell us why" 

NO MORE GOLD STARS: Pinterest (PINS) plans to end its creator rewards program, which offered cash bonuses when creators completed goals such as hitting certain engagement metrics, The Information’s Kaya Yurieff reported. A test program was launched with selected creators about a year ago, and Pinterest will pay a one-time bonus to creators in the program who participated in at least one reward goal in August, September or October, a Pinterest spokesperson said.

THAT’LL COST YOU: Ireland’s Data Protection Commission has announced the conclusion to an inquiry into Meta Platforms Ireland, data controller of the "Facebook" social media network, imposing a fine of EUR265M and a range of corrective measures. The DPC commenced this inquiry on 14 April 2021, on foot of media reports into the discovery of a collated dataset of Facebook personal data that had been made available on the internet. The scope of the inquiry concerned an examination and assessment of Facebook Search, Facebook Messenger Contact Importer and Instagram Contact Importer tools in relation to processing carried out by Meta Platforms Ireland Limited during the period between 25 May 2018 and September 2019.

LOCKING IN ON TARGET: Zoom Video (ZM) shares have plummeted 87% from their pandemic highs and Zoom could now be "a standout acquisition target for either a rival company or a private equity firm," according to The Information’s Martin Peers.

TRACKING MUSK’S TWEETS: Twitter CEO Elon Musk has taken to Twitter often to provide background to news and events happening within his new company. Some tweets from this week are as follows:

  • "Twitter core services latency reduced by ~400ms. Should feel noticeably faster."
  • A yes-or-no poll which read: "Apple should publish all censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers"
  • On Community Notes feature: "If Community Notes can correct me, then obviously they can correct anyone. This is a good example. They were right to add the label."
  • "This is a battle for the future of civilization. If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead."
  • "The Twitter Files on free speech suppression soon to be published on Twitter itself. The public deserves to know what really happened …"
  • "Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?"
  • Responding to the above tweet with "What’s going on here @tim_cook?"

NEW COVID-19 POLICY: Twitter will no longer enforce its policy against COVID-19 misinformation, David Klepper of AP reported.. Some public health experts are concerned that the change could have significant consequences if it discourages vaccination and other efforts to combat the virus that continues to spread. The change was spotted on Monday night, when Twitter users noticed that a one-sentence update had been made to Twitter’s online rules: “Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy.”

Keywords: Elon Musk, free speech, EU, U.S., pressure, Twitter 2.0, cut expenses, leases, Ron DeSantis, App Store, monopoly, creator rewards program, conclusion, Data Protection Commission, fine, acquisition target, tweets, Covid-19, misinformation

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