Elon Musk appears to be running out of people to blame for what has been a cataclysmic collapse of X (formerly known as Twitter) during his tenure as that platform’s overseer. But in a public appearance on Wednesday, he sketched out his dubious strategy for avoiding responsibility for the site’s demise: As you might expect, it involved turning the finger of blame toward everyone but himself and naming corporations as the culprit for destroying the site through an ongoing advertising boycott of the platform.
Musk blurted this all out during an expletive-laden tantrum, during which he told a bevy of the company’s biggest advertisers that he didn’t want their money to support the platform anymore—which, in his own words, has lost 90 percent of its value since he bought it out just over a year ago.
“If somebody is going to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail with money? Go fuck yourself,” he told Andrew Ross Sorkin during the New York Times DealBook conference.
“I hope that’s clear,” he added, before calling out Disney CEO Bob Iger by name.
When pressed by Sorkin about the economics of a decision to peel back X’s reliance on advertisers, Musk spelled out, “G-F-Y.”
Advertisers have long been in revolt against Musk’s designs for the site, which have consistently made the platform less appealing for brands to appear upon. But in recent days, advertisers have found new reason to flee the site, after an explosive Media Matters report published earlier this month revealed that X was routinely placing antisemitic and pro-Nazi content alongside advertisements from reputable companies. The aftermath included the mass hemorrhage of some of X’s biggest and most risk-averse advertisers, including Apple, IBM, Disney, Lionsgate, and Paramount.
But in the billionaire’s world, his own actions—which included undermining X’s content moderation abilities, using his personal account to spread Nazi conspiracies, and allowing 105 percent more antisemitic hate speech to spread on the platform—are never to blame. Between the lines of his obscenity-laced freakout, Musk all but admitted that the site was in a death spiral and that he was pivoting to a new plan to absolve himself of any blame for its downfall—one in which, according to his telling, was spurred by a conspiracy among the site’s major advertisers to starve X of revenue.
“What the advertising boycott is going to do is it’s going to kill the company,” Musk said, adding that “Earth”—by which he seemed to mean the population of the planet—will ultimately render a verdict on who killed one of the largest tech companies of all time. “And the whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company, and we’ll document it in great detail.”
It’s far from clear that “Earth” will respond to X’s demise with anything other than indifference. As TNR has noted elsewhere, Musk consistently overestimates the user base of his platform: “A study by Pew Research found that fewer than one-quarter of U.S. adults use Twitter at all. Of this sliver of the population, an even tinier cohort is responsible for the vast majority of tweets: “The top 25% of users by tweet volume produce 97% of all tweets, while the bottom 75% of users produce just 3%.” As it stands, the only people likely to take up Musk’s cause will be the small rump of Musk die-hards that he’s trapped on his dying platform.
Musk’s comments were made just steps away from a stone-faced X CEO Linda Yaccarino, who was brought on partly to woo advertisers and will now be tasked with the futile endeavor of finding more in the wake of Musk’s rant.
As is her wont, Yaccarino responded to this most recent controversy with another one of the saccharine and detached-from-reality posts that have made her, in the eyes of Defector’s David Roth, “the last funny Twitter bit left.” “X is enabling an information independence that’s uncomfortable for some people. We’re a platform that allows people to make their own decisions,” Yaccarino posted, hours after the event. “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.”
Good luck with all that.