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Welcome to a new section of Nightcap that I’m tentatively calling “Wait, what?” where I ask hard-hitting questions.
Questions like, “Are you kidding me?” and “Really?”
Today’s topic: Actual Nazis on Twitter in the Year 2022.
If you wisely spent your weekend not reading the internet, you might have missed the latest on the literal neo-Nazi that’s been welcomed back on Twitter.
On Friday, Twitter reinstated the account of Andrew Anglin, a self-professed white supremacist who founded the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. Anglin is, as you might surmise from his whole “being a white supremacist” thing, a troll who was booted from Twitter a decade ago.
And if you’re thinking, like, OK sure but who cares I don’t even use Twitter… standby.
You may not care about Twitter or the trolls who spew hate and send death threats to journalists on it (true story!). But this is an important business story because of what it says about the site’s chief executive.
Elon Musk has owned Twitter for a little over a month, and in that time he’s vowed to reinstate some banned accounts on the basis of “free speech” while not letting the site turn into a “free-for-all hellscape.”
It’s not going great.
Under Musk, the volume of hate speech on Twitter has grown dramatically, according to research published Friday by two watchdog groups.
- Daily use of racial slurs against Black people is triple the 2022 average, the researchers said.
- Slurs against gay men are up 58%.
- Anti-trans speech is up 62%.
- Antisemitic content is on the rise as well, according to the Anti-Defamation League. (And no, it’s not all coming from Kanye West, though the rapper now known as Ye did have his account suspended yet again last week.)
Musk responded to a New York Times article about the research by tweeting “utterly false.” He claims that “hate speech impressions,” aka number of times a tweet containing hate speech has been viewed, has declined since he took the helm.
What Musk has never seemed to grasp is that advertisers and users alike don’t want to hang out with people like Andrew Anglin. It’s bad for business, bad for society, just all around bad.
So far, Musk has approached content moderation minimally, in an ad hoc, deeply subjective way.
For example: Musk said he wouldn’t reinstate Alex Jones, the far-right-wing conspiracy theorist who once claimed the Sandy Hook massacre was staged, because Musk is personally offended by him. (Specifically, Musk said he has “no mercy for anyone who would use the deaths of children for gain.”)
All of which is to say, the only person deciding what’s offensive on Twitter is Elon Musk, and if there’s trauma that exists outside of his own lived experience, well, it doesn’t seem to count.
Advertisers, which provide 90% of Twitter’s revenue, aren’t loving this.
According to the New York Times, Twitter’s US ad revenue was 80% percent below internal expectations for the first week of the World Cup — typically a huge traffic event for the company.
Musk’s chaotic behavior itself is worrying some brands. GM paused its advertising on Twitter this fall, seeking assurances that its data wouldn’t be shared with Tesla, according the 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 wider. He’s the CEO behind the vast majority of electric vehicles on the road in the US; he wants to bore holes into the ground and to solve “soul-destroying traffic;” he’s already sent human beings into space; he believes his SpaceX will save humanity by colonizing Mars.
At this point, no one in the business world has the luxury of ignoring Musk.
NUMBER OF THE DAY: 34%
It’s a pilot’s market. Travel demand is booming and commercial airlines are short-staffed, which is why Delta just offered a 34% cumulative pay increase over three years for its pilots, Reuters reports. If the deal is approved by Delta pilots, it’s expected to act 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 revenue that has so far blunted the impact of economic sanctions against the country.
Two major threads today:
1. Europe is boycotting all seaborne imports of Russian crude oil.
2. The US, UK, EU and allies placed a price cap on Russian crude designed to limit the Kremlin’s revenues while allowing countries such as China and India to continue to buy Russian oil.
What happens next, my colleague Julia Horowitz writes, will likely hinge on the response from Moscow.
What’s the goal?
Despite unprecedented sanctions from the West on various industries, Russia’s war chest has been padded by oil revenue.
After 10 months of fighting in Ukraine, Russia’s still bringing in an estimated $560 million a day of crude revenue, even after Europe drastically reduced its imports.
China and India, among others, are still buying surplus barrels of Russian oil, which has been cheaper ever since Western traders began shunning it. That’s where the price cap comes in.
The US, EU and their allies don’t want Russian oil taken off the market entirely — that would just push up global prices at a time when high inflation is hurting their economies. By enacting a price cap, they hope that can keep barrels flowing, but make the business less profitable for Moscow.
The price cap is designed to be enforced by companies that provide shipping, insurance and other services for Russian oil. If a buyer pays more than the $60-a-barrel cap, the companies (most of which are based in Europe or the UK) would withhold their services, in theory preventing the oil from being shipped.
Will it work?
That’s far from certain. Countries like Poland and Estonia wanted a lower price cap, emphasizing that $60 is too close to the current market price for Russian oil. At the end of September, Russian Urals crude was trading just under $64 a barrel.
Enforcement could also prove difficult. A Kremlin spokesperson said Monday that Moscow wouldn’t recognize any price caps. That could push Russian producers and customers to lean on ships and insurance providers outside of Europe, what the industry refers to as a “shadow fleet.”
Bottom line: Market analysts say the impact on oil prices is tough to predict. Because of the relatively generous price cap, Russia may continue to find buyers. But it could also slash production, reducing global supply and injecting some decidedly unwelcome uncertainty at a time when economies around the world are facing potential recessions.