Last month, Twitter owner Elon Musk and CEO Linda Yaccarino rebranded the social media platform as X. While it is unclear what they ultimately envision for this “everything app,” Yaccarino has made it clear that the platform's changes under Musk — which have caused chaos and allowed misinformation, extremism, and other harmful content to thrive — have been supposedly purposeful, even as they led to cratering revenue and fleeing advertisers.
Musk, who bought Twitter with a company called X Corp. as “an accelerant to creating X, the everything app,” has now changed the platform’s logo from a blue bird to a black and white “X,” claimed tweets should instead be called “x’s,” and redirected X.com to Twitter’s domain. Yaccarino confirmed the rebranding, posting on July 23 that “we’ve already started to see X take shape over the past 8 months through our rapid feature launches, but we’re just getting started.”
To further attract advertisers, the rebranded company has reportedly reduced pricing of new bookings through the end of the month — while simultaneously threatening ad buyers with losing verification “if they haven’t spent at least $1,000 on ads in the previous 30 days or $6,000 on ads in the previous 180 days.”
But advertisers shouldn’t be fooled by these desperate tactics: Musk’s chaotic leadership and continued behavior on the platform, as well as the failed rebranding attempts of other tech companies, suggest Twitter’s rebranding is destined to fail.
Even after the rebranding as X, Media Matters identified ads for brands including Honeywell, Discovery, National Women’s Soccer League, the Pittsburgh Steelers, USA Today, and Manchester City on the verified account of the National Socialist Network, a leading neo-Nazi group that engages in violence and has connections to terrorism.
Two weeks after Musk rebranded the platform, we also found advertisements next to previously suspended far-right accounts and conspiracy theorists that Musk had reinstated, despite their propensity for posting misinformation and extremism. In just over 10 minutes, we found an ad for Comcast next to election denier Roger Stone and QAnon influencer “intheMatrixxx”; an ad from Disney next to QAnon-promoting figure “CannCon”; a Samsung ad next to anti-Muslim extremist Laura Loomer; an ad from Apple next to a tweet from right-wing blogger David Vance that amplified Tucker Carlson’s interview with misogynist Tristan Tate; and ads for Mondelez International’s Ritz Crackers and Chips Ahoy next to right-wing psychologist and budding climate denier Jordan Peterson.
As Twitter’s owner, Musk has used the platform to push anti-trans hate, conspiracy theories, and misinformation while reinstating dozens of previously banned right-wing accounts and conspiracy theorists. He has also ended the previous verification process, lending a veneer of credibility to misinformers and extremists subscribed to Twitter Blue. Additionally, he has decimated Twitter’s staff and fostered a toxic workplace; ended free application programming interface access, making it harder for researchers and journalists to hold the platform accountable; and rolled back content moderation policies including LGBTQ protections.
Even after announcing the company’s new logo, Musk reinstated the account of conspiracy theorist Dom Lucre (who shared child sexual abuse material on the platform) after pressure from right-wing figures, and he continued to spread harmful content on his own account, posting COVID-19 vaccine misinformation in response to the news that Bronny James suffered a cardiac arrest.
As a result of Musk’s changes to Twitter, the platform has become toxic for advertisers and rife with extremism, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. Media Matters has repeatedly shown that his changes have led to more harmful content: In the month after Musk became owner of the platform, tweets from anti-LGBTQ accounts that mentioned the “groomer” slur were retweeted substantially more than they were in the month before, and those accounts were also mentioned far more in other tweets with the same slur. Also, during his first four months, nearly a quarter of top Twitter accounts tweeting about COVID-19 (including accounts Musk reinstated) pushed anti-vaccine rhetoric.
New Media Matters data confirms that under Yaccarino’s leadership, anti-LGBTQ hate is still prevalent on the platform: Nearly one-third of the top 200 accounts that tweeted about pride during June — Yaccarino’s first month as CEO — were right-wing accounts that have posted anti-LGBTQ content on Twitter.
Researchers have also found graphic imagery spreading on the platform in the wake of a tragic mass shooting, Twitter Blue subscribers with blue checkmarks pushing baseless conspiracy theories, and additional ads from major companies appearing next to previously banned accounts — including right-wing extremists, COVID-19 misinformers, anti-vaccine figures, and election deniers.
Musk’s leadership at Twitter has decimated the company’s revenue and wreaked havoc on the platform, plunging it into chaos — which will continue regardless of its name or the new CEO’s experience as an advertising executive. In a footnote from Twitter’s June 1 federal court filing, lawyers for the company told the court that hiring Yaccarino as CEO “will not result in a different content-moderation strategy for Twitter, a company that will still be owned by Musk and led by a person chosen by Musk” — confirming that the company is still susceptible to his whims, including his longtime obsession with rebranding as the letter X.
Google and Facebook have similarly attempted to rebrand themselves and both attempts were largely unsuccessful, despite an initial positive response from the stock market. After Google rebranded as Alphabet in 2015, the public never caught on to the new name and the company failed to realize many of its intended projects, sinking loads of cash into failed attempts that were eventually reabsorbed into Google, spun off, or shuttered. Meta, which was rebranded from Facebook in 2021, has failed to improve its public image and realize CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s intended metaverse concept.
While Musk and Yaccarino try to attract advertisers with a new name, discount prices, and veiled threats, the platform is still the chaotic, toxic site Musk has transformed it into — one that isn’t safe for their brands.