After Musk’s comments, X advertisers fled the platform, expressing grave concerns over the promotion of anti-Semitic and racist content on the site. On November 18th, Elon Musk, wearing a black blazer against a black backdrop, took to his social media platform, X (formerly Twitter), to threaten legal action against Media Matters, a media watchdog group, and all those who had criticized his platform for promoting hate speech.
Since Musk’s acquisition of X in 2022, the site has been under scrutiny for the proliferation of anti-Semitic content. This controversial issue gained further traction on Thursday when Musk endorsed a post that falsely accused the Jewish community of spreading racial animosity among white people. The post insinuated that Jews were responsible for the influx of people of color into Western nations, echoing a conspiracy theory linked to the tragic events of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in 2018, where 11 people lost their lives.
Musk’s response to the user’s post was concerning – he simply stated, “You said the pure truth,” thereby validating the offensive content. This drew immediate backlash, particularly from major brands like Apple, Bravo, Oracle, Xfinity, and IBM, as their ads had been displayed next to pro-Nazi messages on X. Media Matters reported this alarming development, prompting Musk to dismiss the organization as “nefarious.”
Following the incident, 164 Jewish leaders, comprising rabbis, artists, and academics from various ideological backgrounds, collectively denounced the anti-Semitic rhetoric on X. They accused Musk of propagating hate speech and called on large corporations to join forces in funding the fight against anti-Semitism.
IBM, one of the prominent advertisers on X, promptly announced that it was halting advertising on the platform while conducting an investigation into the matter. Lionsgate, through a spokesperson, conveyed their intent to follow suit. The European Commission, fearing the spread of misinformation, called for the suspension of their advertising campaigns on X.
In response to the backlash, Musk declared that X Corp would take “thermonuclear action” against Media Matters and anyone involved in what he perceived as a fraudulent attack on his company. The consequences of his statements were significant – major companies such as Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Comcast, Lions Gate Entertainment, and Paramount Global swiftly withdrew their advertisements from X. Even Apple, the world’s largest company by market capitalization, pledged to follow suit.
Musk defended his platform in a communication, accusing Media Matters of misrepresenting the real experience of X and attempting to undermine free speech while misleading advertisers. He claimed that Media Matters had created a separate account solely to deceive advertisers about the nature of their tweets.
Since Musk’s acquisition in October 2022 and the subsequent reduction of content moderation, X has faced an exodus of advertisers, leading to an alarming increase in hate speech, as reported by civil liberties organizations.
The gravity of the situation was underscored by the White House, which condemned Musk for endorsing the “horrible” theory of anti-Semitic conspiracy. They accused him of promoting abominable anti-Semitic practices and racist hatred, asserting that this behavior contradicted fundamental American values.
It is important to note that Musk, in addition to his role at X, is also the CEO of Tesla, an electric vehicle manufacturer. Tesla has faced numerous legal proceedings alleging racism, unprovoked physical violence, and sexual assault against employees.
Unfortunately, incidents of anti-Semitism have been on the rise globally, including in the United States. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported a spike of over 400% in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States following the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas in early October.
The challenges surrounding X and its role in promoting hate speech are clear. The consequences of Musk’s statements have resulted in a significant exodus of advertisers, highlighting the urgent need for increased content moderation and responsible leadership within the platform.