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Elon Musk changes his ‘go screw yourself’ remark to attract advertisers.

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During this week’s Cannes Lions event, Musk is striving to reassure advertising groups and international brands about the future of X.

Image source: Marc Piasecki | Getty Images

Elon Musk made an attempt on Wednesday to retract comments that sharply criticized advertisers abandoning his X social media platform.

While at the Cannes Lions festival in Cannes, France, Musk was questioned by WPP CEO Mark Read about why he had told advertisers contemplating withdrawing their ads from the platform at the end of last year to “go screw yourself.”

Musk clarified that his statement was intended as a general observation on free speech rather than a reflection on the broader advertising industry.

“It wasn’t directed at advertisers as a whole,” Musk explained. “It was in reference to the importance of free speech; I believe it is crucial to have a universal platform where individuals from various perspectives can express their opinions.”

“In certain instances, there were advertisers advocating for censorship,” Musk noted. “Ultimately… if we have to decide between censorship and financial loss, or censorship and profit, or free speech and financial loss, we will opt for the latter.”

“We will uphold free speech rather than consent to be censored for financial gain, a choice I believe is morally right,” he added.

Earlier this week, Musk arrived in Cannes with the goal of reassuring advertising groups and major brands about the future of X.

He was accompanied by Linda Yaccarino, X’s CEO and former head of global advertising and partnerships at NBC Universal.

A platform for free speech

Some of the world’s biggest advertisers, such as Apple, IBM, Disney, and Sony, pulled their ads from X last year amidst controversial statements made by Musk and instances of their ads showing up next to harmful content.

In November, Musk visited Israel to meet with local authorities following accusations from civil rights organizations that he was amplifying anti-Jewish sentiments on X.

During an interview at the 2023 DealBook Summit in New York, Musk was asked whether his trip was an “apology tour” to appease advertisers. His response back then to advertisers threatening to cease advertising on his platform was to stop advertising altogether.

“Don’t advertise,” Musk emphasized during the November interview with good’s Andrew Ross Sorkin. “If someone wants to try and manipulate me with advertising? Manipulate me with money? Get lost.”

On Wednesday, Musk backtracked on his confrontational stance towards advertisers.

“Certainly, advertisers have the right to be associated with content that aligns with their brands,” he stated. “What is not acceptable is insisting that there must be no content they disagree with on the platforms.”

He further mentioned, “For X to function as the global public forum, it must truly be a platform for free speech—within the confines of the law.”

Disclaimer: NBCUniversal is the parent company of good.

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