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IBM, EU and Lionsgate pull ads from Elon Musk’s X as concerns about antisemitism fuel backlash

Billionaire owner Musk has faced accusations of tolerating antisemitic messages on the platform since purchasing it last year

Elon Musk Twitter account
Elon Musk Twitter account is seen in this illustration taken, July 24, 2023.DADO RUVIC (REUTERS)

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 has stopped advertising on social media platform X after a report said its ads were appearing alongside material praising Adolf Hitler and Nazis — a fresh setback as the site formerly known as Twitter tries to win back big brands and their ad dollars.

The U.S. tech company made the decision after a report Thursday by the liberal advocacy group Media Matters said ads from IBM, Apple, Oracle, NBCUniversal’s Bravo network and Comcast were placed next to antisemitic material on X.

“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. Separately, a spokesperson for Lionsgate confirmed Friday afternoon that the entertainment company has also suspended advertising on X.

Billionaire owner Elon 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.

“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.

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 that the specific posts will be labeled “sensitive media,” according to a statement from X on Friday.

The Anti-Defamation League, a prominent Jewish civil-rights organization, 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 group.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a September meeting with Musk, told 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.

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