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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Advertisers cut off spending and flee Elon Musk's X over antisemitic conspiracy theory

The Walt Disney Co said it was pausing spending on X, as did Lionsgate, an entertainment and film distribution company, and Paramount Global, a media giant that owns CBS

Our Bureau And Agencies New York Published 19.11.23, 06:04 AM
Elon Musk

Elon Musk File image

The fallout over Elon Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory on X gathered steam on Friday, as several major advertisers on his social media platform cut off their spending after his comments.

The Walt Disney Co said it was pausing spending on X, as did Lionsgate, an entertainment and film distribution company, and Paramount Global, a media giant that owns CBS. Apple, which spends tens of millions of dollars a year on X, also suspended advertising on the platform, a person with knowledge of the situation said. They followed IBM, which cut its spending with X on Thursday.

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Musk, who bought Twitter last year and renamed it X, has been under scrutiny for months for allowing and even stoking antisemitic abuse on the site.

That snowballed on Wednesday when the tech billionaire agreed with a post on X that accused Jewish people who are facing antisemitism amid the Israel-Hamas war of pushing the “exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them” and supporting the immigration of “hordes of minorities”.

“You have said the actual truth,” Musk replied.

Jewish groups have compared the statement in the original post to a belief known as replacement theory, a conspiracy theory that posits that non-white immigrants, organised by Jews, intend to replace the white race. That idea fuelled Robert Bowers, who raged against Jewish people online before killing 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.

On Friday, the White House condemned Musk, 52, for boosting the anti-Jewish conspiracy theory. Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson, said in a statement that it was “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”.

An X spokesperson declined to comment on the advertising pauses, and Apple didn’t respond. Axios reported on Apple’s decision, and Bloomberg reported earlier on the Lionsgate suspension.

Linda Yaccarino, X’s CEO, posted on the site on Thursday that the company had been “extremely clear about our efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination”.

But on Friday, Musk agreed with a post on Xthat suggested advertisers such as IBM were pullingback from the platform to save face.

He later said accounts that made “clear calls for extreme violence” would be suspended, highlighting two phrases associated with Palestinian supporters that would not be tolerated on the site.

Advertisers have been skittish about X since Musk bought the social media service last autumn and said he wanted more free speech and would loosen content moderation rules.

New York Times News Service

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