If you’ve found yourself rage-tweeting a response to some clearly unhinged troll, stop yourself for just a moment. As of July 13, Twitter is now paying an invitation-only select group of creators, namely famous right-wingers like Andrew Tate, in a so-called “Creator Ads Revenue Sharing Program.”
According to Twitter owner Elon Musk, the first round of creator payouts will total $5 million, divvied up to a select group of creators chosen by the platform (qualifications unknown), and will be cumulative from February forward. The payouts will be distributed through Stripe.
Creators are left with a lot of confusion around who is actually able to sign up for the program right away. The Twitter website states that admitted creators must be subscribed to Twitter Blue and have earned more than 5 million tweet impressions each month for the last 3 months, but does not have any clarity around the program — why some creators received invitations and not others, how to apply, and if you’re accepted, how your slice of the $5 million pie is calculated.
Musk himself said Twitter’s ad-revenue sharing is not exactly on a per-impression basis, tweeting, “It’s not exactly per impression. What matters is how many ads were shown to other verified users. Only verified users count, as it is otherwise trivial to game the system with bots.”
While most are left in the dark about how to get into the “program,” those who have already curried favor with Elon Musk seem to have access immediately. As Taylor Lorenz of The Washington Post reported, the initial recipients of advertising payouts “appear to be high-profile far-right influencers who tweeted before the announcement how much they’ve earned as part of the program.”
Right-wing commentator Ian Miles Cheong (who has 685,000 followers) and right-wing YouTuber Benny Johnson (who has 1.7 million followers) were among those who confirmed their earnings. Cheong said he was getting $16,259, and Johnson said he’d be getting $9,546. According to Insider, Andrew Tate, an influencer with over 7 million followers facing rape and human trafficking charges in Romania, claimed he was paid $20,397 under the program.
Other creators like entrepreneurs the Krassenstein brothers (who rose to prominence for anti-Trump tweets) also reported receiving over $24,000 each for participating in the ad program. In 2019, the brothers were suspended from Twitter in 2019 for allegedly operating bot accounts to boost their engagement (a claim they denied). In December 2022, their accounts were reinstated. It’s interesting to see they were included in this group of creators.
How were these creators chosen? How are they able to make so much money in such a short period of time? How exactly was this calculated by Twitter? It’s all very mysterious.
The Uneven Playing Field
One would hope any kind of ad revenue sharing is a step toward being creator-friendly, nourishing underpaid and overworked creators everywhere. But who are we kidding? The playing field for creators on Twitter is incredibly uneven.
To be admitted to the $5 million ad fund, users must be subscribed to Twitter Blue and have earned more than 5 million monthly tweet impressions for the last 3 months. So again, you must pay to join Twitter Blue — and who are the users who don’t have to worry about that? Those who already have large platforms and don’t need to pay upfront to get a blue check.
Rather than thoroughly beta-testing a true advertising revenue-sharing program for all creators, Musk made sweetheart deals with big-name trolls and right-wing celebrities who don’t need a helping hand. It’s unclear how much the average person would make from a program like this — because it’s clearly not intended for the average person.
The Dumpster Fire Incentive
Twitter also chose to monetize the ads in post replies specifically, rather than make a cumulative ad revenue fund for all posts on the For You feed.
Platforms are running into pushback as they introduce creator funds added up from all ads shown randomly in between posts on an algorithmic feed. Two in particular? TikTok, whose stagnant creator fund program turned out much less lucrative than initially hoped, and YouTube, whose promising 45% Shorts split still leaves creators uncertain about how their slice of the pie is calculated between all creators on the platform.
Musk’s new system is even murkier and explicitly rewards a certain type of social media creator: the rich, the famous — and the kind that uses the platform to incite anger or other intense emotions.
With Twitter’s current political climate and lack of content moderation, the financial incentive to start online dumpster fires is far too great when replies are king. Musk even admitted online controversy is incentivized under this new program, responding to a tweet from Farzad Mesbahi. Mesbahi wrote along with a gif of Bob Ross doing a chef’s kiss, “The more haters you have in your replies the more money you’ll make on Twitter.” Musk agreed. “Poetic justice,” he wrote.
Adult Content Creators Left Behind
Unfortunately for adult content creators, sexual content cannot be monetized under this new program, or on Twitter at all, according to its Creator Monetization Standards.
Twitter is one of the only mainstream platforms that allows sexual content, attracting a significant amount of adult content creators. In the spring of 2022, Twitter considered becoming a potential OnlyFans competitor with paywalled subscriptions. However, those plans were halted as Twitter discovered it could not safely moderate the inevitable amount of harmful sexual content, like child pornography, on the site, according to the Verge.
Sexual content on Twitter may not be safely moderated, yet Musk is continuing to lean into the idea that sex sells. He recently hinted Twitter could be used as a dating app, and today, there is more graphic content on the platform than ever before.
Cashflow Still Remains Negative
If you’re wondering where all this money will come from for revenue sharing, you’re not alone. Twitter’s cash flow remains negative due to an almost 50% drop in advertising revenue and debt. Musk announced that this was not his expectation and that he anticipated that Twitter would be cashflow positive by June.
And don’t forget, views are still limited on the platform, spelling disaster for future growth. Meanwhile, all kinds of Twitter lawsuits are pending — including claims that Twitter owes unpaid severance and targeted women and workers with disabilities during the massive layoffs that began last year.
Artists, writers, designers, and other content creators are already anxious about losing eyes on their work — and therefore losing opportunities for publicity and additional opportunities. Though no revenue-sharing program is perfect, some platforms offer a better example than others. YouTube, for example, offers clearer guidelines for its program and a hefty 45-55% split with creators (rather than a stagnant creator fund). We can only hope more platforms lean in that direction.