After Elon Musk, the owner of X, formerly known as Twitter, amplified an antisemitic trope on the platform, major firms have suspended advertising on the site. The billionaire is threatening legal action.
A dozen major advertisers, including Apple, Disney, IBM, and others, have now paused advertising on X after Musk replied to a post sharing a conspiracy theory that accused Jewish communities of pushing hatred against white people, calling it the "actual truth."
Even though Musk later said his comment referred only to groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the White House quickly denounced Musk’s endorsement of the post “in the strongest terms.”
That was just the beginning, though. Media Matters for America, a progressive pressure group, said on Thursday it had identified ads bought by high-profile firms next to posts including praise of Nazis, Holocaust denial, and Hitler quotes. More advertisers joined the boycott immediately.
And the day before, the European Commission announced that it would stop advertising on X due to widespread disinformation on the platform, especially in relation to the Israel-Hamas war, Politico said.
As usual, Musk reacted with denials and threats. For instance, he said that “fake advocacy groups who seek to suppress free speech should remember that karma is real.”
Just in case it wasn’t clear what he meant, Musk also said: “Many of the largest advertisers are the greatest oppressors of your right to free speech.” He also agreed with a post that said that “advertisers control the narrative in this country as much as the media does.”
Finally, Musk threatened Media Matters for America with a lawsuit “the split second court opens on Monday.”
The organization, though, replied that the billionaire was a “bully who threatens meritless lawsuits in an attempt to silence reporting that he even confirmed is accurate.”
Musk later also said the group's report had "misrepresented the real user experience of X" in order to "undermine freedom of speech and mislead advertisers."
Be that as it may, X’s ads business has been in free fall since Musk purchased the social media company. Apple’s decision to pause spending on the website could be especially painful since the iPhone maker has been one of X’s biggest advertisers.
To be fair, Musk also announced new steps to fight what he described as “calls for extreme violence” against Israel.
He said that anyone using phrases such as “from the river to the sea” – which the ADL considers to be a coded call for Israel’s destruction, even though Israel’s far-right also uses the phrase – would be suspended from X. The ADL offered rare praise for this decision.
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