'If Willy Wonka benefited from apartheid': John Oliver rips Twitter’s Elon Musk as advertisers jump ship

'If Willy Wonka benefited from apartheid': John Oliver rips Twitter’s Elon Musk as advertisers jump ship
Image via Screengrab / Twitter.

John Oliver ripped Musk’s recent $44 billion purchase of Twitter, opening his Sunday night segment of Last Week Tonight with, “It has now been three weeks since it was taken over by Elon Musk, a man who answers the question, ‘What if Willy Wonka benefited from apartheid?’”

Oliver began by slamming Musk’s initial entrance into the company headquarters when the Tesla CEO walked in carrying a sink, and then tweeted, “Let that sink in.” As Daily Kos reported, it didn’t take long after Musk’s late October takeover for the racist floodgates to open and the use of the N-word to proliferate.

“One analysis [found] the use of a racial slur spiking nearly 500% in the 12 hours after his deal was finalized, which is pretty shocking,” Oliver said, adding, “even for a website where a regular trending topic is sometimes just ‘The Jews.’ That happens constantly. You’ll log in and see 30,000 people tweeting about ‘The Jews’ on a Tuesday afternoon, and you do not want to click to find out why.”

Oliver said that Musk had initially tried to lower the bar, explaining that his newly bought company would “do lots of dumb things in coming months.” At which point Oliver talked about Musk’s infamous attempt at charging users $8 a month to verify their accounts.

Twitter initially used blue checkmarks to verify that notable people and companies were who they said they were. Musk’s new pay-to-play “Twitter Blue” program, which removed verification processes and instead sells a blue check to anyone with $8, led to a slew of counterfeit accounts

But the list of Musk misfires continues to grow. After sacking a massive number of Twitter executives and other employees in the first days after acquiring the company, Musk also removed explainer tags for trending topics, “a feature that previously helped add greater context and combated misinformation,” Oliver said, adding that #RIPJimmyFallon was recently trending without any further information.

Oliver went on to say that all of Musk’s shenanigans have taken a toll on the platform, explaining that advertisers have begun pulling revenue, “General Mills, GM [General Motors], United Airlines and Pfizer,” Oliver noted.

Essence Magazine reports that Balenciaga, Eli Lilly, Playbill, Audi, and Volkswagen have all left the platform. Additionally, a long list of celebrities have also walked away from Twitter: Whoopi Goldberg, Toni Braxton, Shonda Rhimes, Micky Foley, Gigi Hadid, Brian Koppelman, and Téa Leoni, to name a few.

A director of a “medium sized b2b tech company” tweeted Monday an explanation of why they were “pausing” their Twitter ads, citing “serious brand safety issues,” with ads “next to awful content” and “replies to our posts with hardcore antisemitism and adult spam,” even after it was flagged.

Another monumentally “dumb thing” Musk recently did was to allow former President Donald Trump’s account to be reinstated on the platform.

Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League weighed in: “For @elonmusk to allow Donald Trump back on Twitter, ostensibly after a brief poll, shows he is not remotely serious about safeguarding the platform from hate, harassment and misinformation.”

Oliver commented that Musk’s online persona has been a “fun troll,” but according to a recent appearance, it seems as if “the fun may have worn off for him.”

Oliver then showed a video of Musk speaking at the B20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, where Musk appeared virtually. He talked about working day and night on the platform, to which Oliver screamed, “Holy shit,” adding, “That man is in every possible sense, in a very dark place. The entire vibe of that video is ‘Wizard of Oz’ suicide note.”

Oliver ended his Twitter segment by concluding that Musk seems clueless about the platform’s direction and, and as others have said, doubtful it will survive. “He paid roughly $44 billion for a company that he is now demolishing at every turn,” The New Republic’s Matt Ford wrote.

Oliver said:

“He’s decimated his staff and degraded his product, and sure, he could try and sell what’s left of Twitter, or it can continue functioning worse than before as his free-for-all digital clown town … And while the potential collapse of this site has been sad for the workers and for those who have relied on it, there is undeniably something a little satisfying about a guy who was so desperate to be perceived as cool and funny on the internet that he paid $44 billion to make it happen, only to discover that he still somehow couldn’t afford it.

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