Linda Yaccarino, the CEO of X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) has refused to resign from her position to save her reputation despite increasing pressure from advertisers, former colleagues and friends.
Update 21/11: Added extra comments from Yaccarino and Musk.
Yaccarino was appointed X’s CEO in June by Elon Musk, who then moved into the chief technology officer role at the company.
After Musk publicly endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory late last week and a report from Media Matters of America showed that X had been placing adverts next to pro-Nazi content, a “groundswell” of executives and Yaccarino’s own friends from the advertising industry privately urged her to resign from X to save her reputation, according to three people familiar with the matter.
However, two of the people said she has refused to leave her position, telling those who have called her that she believes in X’s mission and its employees. X declined to comment.
“I did advise Linda via text to go and [said] that staying would only damage her reputation”, said Lou Paskalis, chief executive of marketing consultancy AJL Advisory and a former top media executive at Bank of America.
Pasakalis added that brands might face shareholder complaints and potential customer boycotts if they continued to advertise on the platform.
“I’d question the judgment of any brand – any brand – that is still advertising on X,” he added. “[Musk] has to find a new revenue model as he has killed advertising on the platform, period, full stop”.
Undeterred by the nay-sayers, Yaccarino seems determined to fight for X and Musk. On Sunday evening, she sent a note to staff saying that the platform’s work was “critical” but “not always easy’.
Here’s the full note, as seen by The Hollywood Reporter.
“Across every corner of this company, we’re working to create a platform for everyone. And there is no other platform that’s working as hard to protect free speech like X. Our work is critical, but it’s not always easy. What we’re doing matters, which means it naturally invites criticism from those who do not share our beliefs.
“While some advertisers may have temporarily paused investments because of a misleading and manipulated article, the data will tell the real story. Because for all of us who work at X, we’ve been extremely clear about our efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination, as there’s no place for it anywhere in the world.
“I want to encourage you to read and listen to all the feedback. On one side, there’s a vocal minority trying to use deceptive attacks to undermine our work. But on the other side, there are vocal supporters and courageous partners who believe in X and the meaningful work you are all doing. Hold on to that and keep pushing forward. No critic will ever deter us from our mission to protect free speech.
“Let’s keep putting our values to work and lean on one another. I am extremely proud to be on the front line with you all — and I’ll see you all at the office tomorrow morning.
Yaccarino also posted on X after this article was published: “After the publication of this article, Yaccarino posted on X, “If you know me, you know I’m committed to truth and fairness. Here’s the truth. Not a single authentic user on X saw IBM’s, Comcast’s, or Oracle’s ads next to the content in Media Matters’ article. Only 2 users saw Apple’s ad next to the content, at least one of which was Media Matters. Data wins over manipulation or allegations. Don’t be manipulated. Stand with X”.
Musk also posted a press release from George Paxton, Texas’ attorney general, announcing that he was investigating Media Matters “for potential fraudulent activity”. The release also said that Paxton was “extremely troubled by the allegations that Media Matters, a radical anti-free speech organisation, fraudulently manipulated data on X.com”.
Despite Yaccarino’s perhaps misguided belief in X’s work, advertisers are not convinced. And nor will be X’s accountants if the advertiser exodus continues. Ad revenues account for around 90 per cent of X’s revenue — Apple, for instance, spent some US$100 million (around AU$150 million) on Twitter adverts before Musk took over. But, over the weekend, the company pulled its spend entirely.
“Advertisers are accustomed to dealing with brand safety concerns on social media, particularly during periods of political and social tension or war. But they’re not accustomed to a platform’s owner amplifying misinformation and hate speech, and emboldening conspiracy theorists”, warned Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg.
“The impact of Musk’s words poses a major societal danger. Twitter’s influence has always been larger than its user base and ad revenues, and while the platform’s cultural relevance has declined, Musk and X are still very much a major part of public conversation”, she added.
X’s revenues were forecast to decline by 54.4 per cent from 2022 to this year and newer research from Insider Intelligence seems to corroborate those numbers. Its forecast predicted that X’s US advertising revenues were expected to be down by nearly 55 per cent year-on-year, and 54.4 per cent worldwide prior to the latest advertiser departures.
The Analysts also estimated that X’s monthly users would drop 4.1 per cent to 348.6 million by year-end 2024, down from 363.7 million in 2023, and a high of 373.6 million in 2022.
Enberg additionally suggests that Yaccarino’s efforts to assure advertisers of X’s brand safety efforts will not work, given she’s being undermined by Musk himself. Perhaps it is already too late for Yaccarino.
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