After Elon Musk made anti-Semitic comments, numerous advertisers decided to withdraw their support from his social media platform, X. Musk’s controversial remarks drew attention to the alarming presence of anti-Semitic and racist content on the site, which has escalated ever since he acquired the company in 2022.
On November 18th, Musk went as far as threatening to sue Media Matters, a media watchdog group that criticized X for promoting anti-Semitic content. The situation further deteriorated when Musk endorsed a post on X that propagated false claims about the Jewish community spreading hatred among white people. This post also referred to a conspiracy theory suggesting that Jews had encouraged the arrival of people of color in Western nations. The theory was espoused by the perpetrator who carried out a deadly attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018.
Musk’s response to the user’s post was particularly troubling, as he replied, “You said the pure truth.” This endorsement of such offensive content led to the revelation that advertisements for major brands like Apple, Bravo, Oracle, Xfinity, and IBM had been displayed alongside “pro-Nazi” messages on X. Media Matters for America highlighted this issue in an article published the following day.
In response to the article, Musk referred to Media Matters as “a nefarious organization” in a message shared on his social network platform. Simultaneously, 164 Jewish leaders, including rabbis, artists, and academics of diverse ideologies, released a statement denouncing the anti-Semitism on X and accusing Musk of promoting it. They urged large corporations to take action and support the movement against anti-Semitism.
IBM was among the first companies to respond, stating that it would suspend advertising on X while conducting an investigation into the matter. Lionsgate, through a spokesperson, also announced that it would follow suit. Worried about the potential for misinformation, the European Commission requested its services on X to halt their advertising campaigns.
Expressing his anger, Musk proclaimed on X, “X Corp will be taking thermonuclear action against Media Matters and all those who conspired in this fraudulent attack on our company.” His defiant stance did not deter other major companies, such as Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Comcast, Lions Gate Entertainment, and Paramount Global, from ceasing their advertisements on X. Even Apple, the world’s largest company by market capitalization, pledged to do the same.
Musk defended himself against the scrutiny, claiming that Media Matters had misrepresented the reality of the X platform in an attempt to undermine free speech and deceive advertisers. He alleged that Media Matters had created a separate account to mislead advertisers about the content they shared.
Civil liberties organizations have noted that since Musk’s acquisition of X in October 2022 and subsequent reduction of content moderation, advertisers have increasingly distanced themselves from the platform. This has led to a surge in hate speech on X, according to these organizations.
In a separate but related context, the White House expressed its condemnation of Musk’s endorsement of the “horrible” anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. It accused him of promoting abominable anti-Semitic practices and racist hatred that contradict the fundamental values of Americans. It is worth mentioning that Musk also serves as the CEO of Tesla, an electric vehicle manufacturer that has faced numerous lawsuits alleging racism, as well as unprovoked physical and sexual assault against its employees.
The rise of anti-Semitism in recent years, including in the United States, is deeply concerning. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish anti-hate group, reported a more than 400% spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States following the outbreak of conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas on October 7th. This underscores the urgent need to address and combat all forms of hate speech and discrimination.