White House: Unacceptable to repeat the hideous lie

IBM, Disney, EU pull ads from X as concerns over antisemitism fuel backlash

Latest outcry comes as report shows ads for prominent companies being placed next to pro-Nazi posts and after Musk posts own tweets endorsing an antisemitic conspiracy theory

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks at the SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition, March 9, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks at the SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition, March 9, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

AP — Advertisers are fleeing social media platform X over concerns about their ads showing up next to pro-Nazi content and hate speech on the site in general, with billionaire owner Elon Musk inflaming tensions with his own tweets endorsing an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

IBM said this week that it stopped advertising on X after a report said its ads were appearing alongside material praising Nazis — a fresh setback as the platform formerly known as Twitter tries to win back big brands and their ad dollars, X’s main source of revenue.

The liberal advocacy group Media Matters said in a report Thursday that ads from Apple, Oracle, NBCUniversal’s Bravo network and Comcast also were placed next to antisemitic material on X. The group on Friday added Disney, Lionsgate Entertainment, and Paramount Global to its list of companies pausing advertising on X.

“Lionsgate has suspended advertising on X because of Elon Musk’s recent antisemitic tweets,” said a spokesperson for the motion picture production and distribution company.

IBM on Thursday said it stopped advertising on X due to a report its ads were shown next to pro-Nazi posts at X.

“Major blue-chip companies are announcing they will suspend all advertising,” the group said on a web page featuring a running list on Friday.

“IBM has zero tolerance for hate speech and discrimination and we have immediately suspended all advertising on X while we investigate this entirely unacceptable situation,” the company said in a terse statement.

The European Union’s executive branch said separately Friday that it’s pausing its advertising on X and other social media platforms, in part because of a surge in hate speech.

Musk sparked outcry this week with his own tweets responding to a user who accused Jews of hating white people and professing indifference to antisemitism. “You have said the actual truth,” Musk tweeted in a reply Wednesday.

Musk has faced accusations of tolerating antisemitic messages on the platform since purchasing it last year, and the content on X has gained increased scrutiny since the war between Israel and Hamas began.

The White House also slammed Musk on Friday.

“It is unacceptable to repeat the hideous lie behind the most fatal act of antisemitism in American history at any time, let alone one month after the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust,” said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates, referring to the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the October 7 onslaught on southern Israel in which some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, were killed and another 240 taken hostage.

“We condemn this abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate in the strongest terms, which runs against our core values as Americans,” Bates said. “We all have a responsibility to bring people together against hate, and an obligation to speak out against anyone who attacks the dignity of their fellow Americans and compromises the safety of our communities.”

X has tried to push back on allegations it tolerates antisemitism.

“X’s point of view has always been very clear that discrimination by everyone should STOP across the board — I think that’s something we can and should all agree on,” CEO Linda Yaccarino said in a tweet Thursday.

She was hired by Musk to rebuild ties with advertisers who fled after he took over, concerned that his easing of content restrictions was allowing hateful and toxic speech to flourish and that would harm their brands.

“When it comes to this platform — X has also been extremely clear about our efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination. There’s no place for it anywhere in the world — it’s ugly and wrong. Full stop,” Yaccarino said.

The accounts that Media Matters found posting antisemitic material will no longer be monetizable and the specific posts will be labeled “sensitive media,” according to a statement from X.

The head of the Anti-Defamation League hit back at Musk’s tweets this week, in the latest clash between the prominent Jewish civil-rights organization and the billionaire businessman.

“At a time when antisemitism is exploding in America and surging around the world, it is indisputably dangerous to use one’s influence to validate and promote antisemitic theories,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said Thursday on X.

The group has previously accused Musk of allowing antisemitism and hate speech to spread on the platform and amplifying the messages of neo-Nazis and white supremacists who want to ban the ADL.

Musk met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September, with Netanyahu telling the Tesla CEO that he hopes he can find a way to roll back antisemitism and other forms of hatred within the limits of the First Amendment.

In this handout photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaks with Elon Musk during a live discussion on the social media platform X, at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, September 18, 2023. (Avi Ohayon/ GPO)

The European Commission, meanwhile, said it’s putting all of its social media ad efforts on hold because of an “alarming increase in disinformation and hate speech” on platforms in recent weeks.

The commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive arm, said in a statement that it is advising its services to “refrain from advertising at this stage on social media platforms where such content is present,” adding the freeze doesn’t affect its official accounts on X.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton, the bloc’s digital enforcer, has taken to X to call out the platform for allowing illegal content and false information to flourish.

Brussels has been adopted a tough stance with new rules to clean up social media platforms, and last month it made a formal request to X for information about its handling of hate speech, misinformation and violent terrorist content related to the Israel-Hamas war.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report

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