Elon Musk Appeals To Advertisers, Backtracks Over Notorious Outburst

Image credit: Elon Musk/Twitter

Wooing advertisers back? Elon Musk says his remark telling advertisers to “go f— yourself” did not refer to the wider ad industry

The owner of X (formerly Twitter) is reportedly trying to woo back advertisers to his platform after Elon Musk’s infamous x-rated outburst late last year.

CNBC reported that Elon Musk softened his 2023 ‘go f— yourself’ outburst at fleeing advertisers, whilst he was speaking at the Cannes Lions festival on Wednesday.

Last week it emerged that X’s lawsuit against non-profit Media Matters and its writer Eric Hananoki was heading to trial in August this year.

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Advertising exodus

That damning report from Hananoki and Media Matters was one of a number of factors that triggered an advertiser exodus from X, amid concern that ads for big brand names were appearing alongside X accounts praising Nazism and denying the Holocaust.

When questioned about the advertising exodus in November 2023, Musk publicly told fleeing advertisers to go f*** themselves, during an on-stage interview at The New York Times DealBook Summit.

Musk, who has previously claimed himself to be “free-speech absolutist”, had also endorsed an anti-Semitic post on X that said members of the Jewish community were stoking hatred against white people, saying the user who had tweeted it, spoke “the actual truth.”

That drew a strong rebuke from the White House, which condemned Elon Musk’s endorsement of what it called a “hideous” anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on X.

Musk later apologised for endorsing this conspiracy theory, admitting it was probably the dumbest post he had ever made.

Musk also travelled to Israel to meet with local officials after he was accused by civil rights groups of amplifying anti-Jewish hatred on X.

Musk backtracking?

Now according to the CNBC report, Elon Musk tried to walk back his outburst, and said his remark telling advertisers to “go f— yourself” was meant as a general point on free speech rather than a comment to the wider industry.

At the Cannes Lions advertising festival in Cannes, France, Musk was asked by WPP CEO Mark Read why he told advertisers threatening to pull ads from the platform late last year to “go f— yourself.”

Musk said it was meant as a general point on free speech rather than a comment to the wider advertising industry.

“It wasn’t to advertisers as a whole,” Musk said. “It was with respect to freedom of speech, I think it is important to have a global free speech platform, where people from a wider range of opinions can voice their views.”

“In some cases, there were advertisers who were insisting on censorship,” Musk said. “At the end of the day … if we have to make a choice between censorship and losing money, [or] censorship and money, or free speech and losing money, we’re going to choose the second.”

“We’re going to support free speech rather than agree to be censored for money which I think is the right moral decision,” he added.

“Of course, advertisers have a right to appear next to content they find compatible with their brands,” he said. “What is not cool is insisting that there can be no content that they disagree with on the platforms.”

He added: “In order for X to be the public square for the world, it really better be a free speech platform – that doesn’t mean people can say illegal things; it’s free speech within the bounds of the law.”

Musk had flown into Cannes earlier this week with an aim to reassure ad groups and global brands over the future of X, CNBC reported.

He was joined by Linda Yaccarino, X’s CEO and former chairman of global advertising and partnerships for NBC Universal.

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X/Twitter chief executive Linda Yaccarino. Image credit: Comcast