X CEO Linda Yaccarino publicly backs Musk after he says ‘f*ck yourself’ to advertisers

X CEO Linda Yaccarino is publicly backing Elon Musk after he explicitly said “go fuck yourself” to advertisers leaving X during an onstage interview yesterday at The New York Times DealBook Summit. Musk, who in recent days has endorsed antisemitic content on the platform alongside other conspiracy theories, like the debunked Pizzagate, has threatened lawsuits against Media Matters, the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Anti-Defamation League, claiming their reports are scaring advertisers off the platform.

In yesterday’s interview, Musk offered an apology for his recent actions, saying he “handed a loaded gun to those who hate me,” and that he was “quite sorry.” He also later referred to his antisemitic post as “one of the most foolish — if not the most foolish — thing I’ve done on the platform.”

His X post, combined with reports that advertiser content was appearing next to hate speech, including antisemitic content, has led to a significant advertiser exodus that has seen big-name brands, including Apple, Disney, Comcast, IBM and others, leaving the platform. Paris Hilton’s 11:11 Media deal with X was also canceled, which would have seen the celeb and influencer promoting X features including live video, audio and e-commerce opportunities for brands.

Even though the majority of X’s revenue still comes from ads — which is why Musk brought in a high-level former NBCU advertising executive as X’s CEO in the first place — the Tesla and SpaceX exec has continued to impulsively post outrageous content to the platform while also recently endorsing an antisemitic post with his replies. That behavior has also made brands uncomfortable, as they don’t want their advertisements anywhere near hate speech.

Though X had promised advertisers a new system that would allow them to choose their level of brand safety, Media Matters’ latest report indicated that technology was nowhere near foolproof. It found it was easy to make ads appear next to hateful and toxic content. And now it appears that X’s owner is dabbling in increasingly controversial content himself.

Even though Yaccarino would seemingly have the uncomfortable position of having to smooth things over with advertisers, she has instead taken to X to back up Musk’s statements.

In a post on the platform, she wrote:

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.

Her comments effectively endorse Musk’s position that advertisers who are uncomfortable with X’s “free speech” positioning have no business coming to X. It’s exactly the wrong thing to say to companies whose primary concerns are brand safety, and who don’t want to choose sides in an ideological war over online speech and X’s moderation — or the lack thereof.

It’s also a change from how she’s responded in the past to Musk’s posts. After the Media Matters reports came out, Yaccarino responded by promoting X’s “efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination” in an internal memo to staff. When Musk endorsed an antisemitic post as “the actual truth,” she didn’t directly comment and continued to post other X news to her feed — like the growth of Community Notes or the boost in X usage from the OpenAI drama that took place on X. That would leave one to believe that she was operating behind the scenes to keep X’s advertising deals afloat.

But now, Musk has backed her into a corner of sorts. By telling advertisers to go fuck themselves, she either has to get on board with his sentiments or get out — as in, resign as X CEO. Though reports have said many of her ad industry colleagues have pressured her to choose the latter, Yaccarino is doubling down on X, for better or for worse.


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