Elon Musk gave a fatalistic, profane farewell Wednesday to the major advertisers who have fled his X social media platform, formerly Twitter, after he embraced an antisemitic conspiracy theory and their ads reportedly appeared next to pro-Nazi content.
"I hope they stop — don't advertise," Musk advised the companies during a wide-ranging interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times DealBook conference. "If someone is going to try and blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go f--k yourself. Go f--k yourself, is that clear?" He didn't name any of the companies — which include Apple, IBM, and several major entertainment studios, including Walt Disney Co. — but he did appear to single out Disney CEO Bob Iger, who had explained earlier Wednesday at the same conference that with Musk "taking the position he took in a public manner, we felt that the association was not necessarily a positive one for us."
"Hey Bob, if you're in the audience," Musk waved. "That's how I feel, don't advertise."
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BREAKING: Elon Musk to advertisers trying to blackmail 𝕏 into censorship: “Go f*ck yourself.” pic.twitter.com/cfH3ThOXNhNovember 29, 2023
Sorkin asked Musk what would happen to X without advertisers, and Musk repeated, "G.F.Y." Sorkin gave a nod to X CEO Linda Yaccarino, who "sat stone-faced in the front row as Musk commented," The Hollywood Reporter reported. "I mean, Linda Yaccarino's right here, and she's got to sell advertising," Sorkin said. Musk predicted that "what this advertising boycott is going to do is to kill the company," and he would try to make sure those advertisers, not him, take the blame.
After that tirade, it seems clear that Musk "is no longer interested in salvaging Twitter as a business," Alex Kirshner wrote at Slate. By lighting his $44 billion investment on fire, he can try to "make himself a free-speech martyr and recast his own business failures as an ideological stand against censorship." And sure, that would "be the most expensive point anyone has ever made," Kirshiner added, but there are "people who desperately want to hear it."
Yaccarino, hired in large part to reassure and recruit advertisers after earlier exoduses in X's Musk era, posted late Wednesday that Musk offered "an explicit point of view about our position," and in her perspective regarding advertising, "X is standing at a unique and amazing intersection of Free Speech and Main Street," and "partners who believe in our meaningful work" are welcome on the site.
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