A vocal Tesla critic claims Twitter turned down an anti-Tesla ad from its security advocacy group, alleging the ad violates the company’s policy against “political” ads.
The Dawn Project, an anti-Tesla advocacy group led by software developer Dan O’Dowd, alleges that Twitter has stopped trying to tweet about a full-page ad posted in The New York Times criticism of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) feature. In a screenshot of an email from the group, Twitter said the tweet violated its policy on “political” advertising.
The rejected ad was the latest development in a strange, long-standing feud between Elon Musk and O’Dowd, who ran a failed US Senate campaign in California earlier this year. In August, Tesla sent a cease and desist letter to the Dawn Project over the group’s YouTube videos of Tesla vehicles running over kid-sized mannequins. (The videos no longer appear on the group’s YouTube page.)
The Dawn Project’s tweet about the Time ad is still active, but the group cannot promote it, which could limit engagement.
U.S @New York Times today’s full-page ad shows @Elon Musk‘s Full Self-Driving is still driving over kids, 3 months after we reported it. 93% agree it should be banned. In the end, this turns into manslaughter. @Tesla personnel and directors may be liable @NHTSAgov @CA_DMV https://t.co/DvtSt9MwG3 pic.twitter.com/mOH0mteiN3
— Dan O’Dowd (@RealDanODowd) Nov 6, 2022
The group’s claims also raise questions about Twitter’s advertising policies in the wake of Musk’s takeover of the social media company. Several major auto companies, including GM, Jeep and Volkswagen, have paused all paid advertising on Twitter in anticipation of what the platform will look like under the new leadership. Meanwhile, Musk tweeted that Twitter has suffered a “massive” drop in ad revenue, even as user growth is at an “all-time high.”
In a statement, O’Dowd said the ad’s rejection was a disturbing sign. “The move to ban advertising content that criticizes Musk’s Tesla Full Self-Driving software raises serious questions about his commitment to free speech,” O’Dowd said in a statement. Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (Musk laid off 50 percent of the company’s employees, including most of the public communications team.)
Twitter defines political ads as:
Content that refers to any candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive or court outcome. Advertisements containing references to political content, including calls to vote, requests for financial support, and advocacy for or against any of the types of political content listed above are prohibited under this policy. We also do not allow advertisements of any kind from candidates, political parties, or elected or appointed government officials.
“Twitter has banned the promotion of political content worldwide,” the company said on its support page. “We made this decision based on our belief that the reach of political messages should be earned, not bought.”
Earlier this year, O’Dowd launched a Senate campaign based on one issue: Tesla. He was highly critical of the company’s FSD driver assistance feature and conducted his own tests that he believes reveal the technology’s critical flaws. (O’Dowd only got 74,916 votes in the June primaries, finishing 10th overall.)
The Santa Barbara billionaire clearly enjoys irritating Musk. He walked before a full-page advertisement in The New York Times discredit Tesla’s FSD and offer $10,000 to the first person who can name “another commercial product from a Fortune 500 company that has a critical outage every 8 minutes.”
Tesla supporters note that O’Dowd operates Green Hills Software, which does business with some of Tesla’s competitors, including General Motors, BMW and Ford. Tesla supporters note that he has a financial interest in publicly disgracing the company. Meanwhile, Musk responded to the Dawn Project in his own way, noting that no one died while using FSD and labeling Green Hills Software “a lot of garbage.”
Since Musk took over Twitter last month, he has quickly posted his imprimatur on the social media platform. The company banned several accounts for impersonating Musk, including comedian Kathy Griffin and crazy men actor Rich Summer. Musk later announced that “any Twitter that engages in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.”