X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk yesterday repeatedly told advertisers who have suspended activity on the platform to “go fuck yourself” and publicly accused them of “blackmailing” him.
Speaking at a conference in the US two weeks after he endorsed an antisemitic trope as “the actual truth” (for which he apologised), Musk then proceeded to claim that if X goes bankrupt, the public will blame the outcome on advertiser boycotts.
Musk’s comments further set him at odds with the likes of Disney, Apple and Comcast, all of which withdrew advertising on X in the wake of a 16 November report by left-leaning non-profit Media Matters for America that showed screenshots of major brands appearing adjacent to pro-Nazi posts. At the time Musk accused Media Matters of a “fraudulent attack on our company”.
X ad sales chief Linda Yaccarino, who was in the audience at the New York Times DealBook Summit, later posted on X that Musk gave a “candid interview” and that “the X community is here to welcome” advertisers.
“I hope [those advertisers leaving] stop,” Musk interjected when his interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin listed advertisers leaving as among his current problems.
Musk continued: “Don’t advertise … If somebody is going to try and blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go fuck yourself. Go … fuck … yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is.”
After a stunned Sorkin pointed out that Yaccarino was in the audience and “she’s got to sell advertising”, Musk continued: “What this advertising boycott is going to do, it’s going to kill the company … and the whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company and we’ll document it in great detail.”
Yaccarino later posted: “Today @elonmusk gave a wide ranging and candid interview at @dealbook 2023. He also offered an apology, an explanation and an explicit point of view about our position. X is enabling an information independence that’s uncomfortable for some people. We’re a platform that allows people to make their own decisions. And here’s my perspective when it comes to advertising: X is standing at a unique and amazing intersection of Free Speech and Main Street — and the X community is powerful and is here to welcome you. To our partners who believe in our meaningful work – Thank You.”
Another reaction to Musk’s comments was offered by former Twitter senior director of planning David Wilding, who posted on LinkedIn: “At Twitter we’d quite often end presentations to advertisers by saying something along the lines of ‘thank you for your support, we really do appreciate it and we don’t take it for granted.’ There wasn’t a way of saying it without sounding insincere but we really did mean it. [Musk’s] is an alternative approach to that. Who’s to say which is more effective?”
This article originally appeared on Campaign US.