Twitter is making millions of dollars from just a handful of some of its most infamous users, according to a new report. New research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) estimates that Twitter “will generate up to $19 million a year in advertising revenue” from just 10 accounts that were once banned from the platform.
The report looked at the current engagement with 10 accounts that were previously banned for “ for “publishing hateful content and dangerous conspiracies.” The accounts were reinstated after Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. The group includes a number of high-profile accounts associated with extremism and conspiracy theories, including those belonging to influencer Andrew Tate, Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin, prominent antivaxxer Robert Malone and the Gateway Pundit.
In order to estimate their reach and engagement, CCDH analyzed nearly 10,000 tweets from these accounts during a 47-day period in December and January. According to their analysis, “on an average day, tweets from the ten accounts received a combined total of 54 million impressions,” they write. “Projecting this average across 365 days, the accounts can be expected to reach nearly 20 billion impressions over the course of a year.”
In order to determine how much ad revenue those impressions might generate for Twitter, CCDH says it created three new Twitter accounts that followed only the 10 users named in the report. The authors found that ads appeared about once every 6.7 tweets. Then, using data from analytics firm Brandwatch, which estimates that “Twitter ads cost an average of $6.46 per 1,000 impressions,” CCDH came up with “a total figure of up to $19 million in estimated annual ad revenues across the accounts.”
While the estimates aren’t a precise accounting of how much Twitter might be making from these users, it demonstrates how valuable a small number of highly polarizing accounts can be for the platform. It also underscores how much more Twitter stands to gain by bringing back even more controversial users.
All of the accounts named in the report were once permanently banned from twitter, but were reinstated after Musk said he would offer “general amnesty” to users who hadn’t broken the law. Twitter also recently announced plans to allow even more previously banned users to appeal their suspensions.
At the same time, Twitter’s advertising business has taken a major hit since Musk’s takeover. A number of high profile advertisers have pulled back from the platform, and revenue is down as much as 40 percent, according to reporting from Platformer.
The report also points out several instances when ads from prominent advertisers appeared adjacent to offensive and inflammatory posts from these users. For example, a Prime Video ad directly underneath a tweet from Andrew Anglin that states “the only career a woman is actually capable of on merit is prostitution.” The report also highlights an ad from the NFL, which appeared directly underneath a tweet misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.
“This work confirms that Twitter has been displaying ads next to every one of the toxic accounts we have investigated, despite the fact that the individuals behind them are known to promote hateful views and falsehoods,” CCDH writes.