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Disney and Apple suspend ads on Elon Musk’s X after he endorses antisemitic tweet

Since Elon Musk took over Twitter last year and converted it into X, critics have warned that his plans for the popular social network could lead to an explosion of hate on the platform.

Now, blue-chip advertisers like Apple and Disney are reportedly fleeing X amid an outbreak of antisemitic content on the site — including posts from the billionaire owner himself.

X’s content policy ostensibly forbids “targeting individuals or groups with content that references forms of violence or violent events where a protected category was the primary target or victims, where the intent is to harass” including “text that refers to or depicts…genocides, (e.g., the Holocaust),” but antisemitic and pro-Nazi content continues to appear on the network.

Mr Musk attracted widespread condemnation on Wednesday when he responded to a tweet echoing claims of the racist and often antisemitic “great replacement” theory, including that Jewish people were “flooding” America with “hordes of minorities” to promote “dialectical hatred against whites, calling the claim “the actual truth.”

That theory was among the hateful ideas directly referenced by the gunman who killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, the deadliest antisemitic attack in US history.

Later, Mr Musk singled out the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights advocacy group that monitors antisemitism and forms of extremism, claiming the group promotes “de facto anti-white racism.”

ADL CEO responded to the claims, calling them “dangerous.”

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk gets in a Tesla car as he leaves a hotel in Beijing, China 31 May 2023 (REUTERS)
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk gets in a Tesla car as he leaves a hotel in Beijing, China 31 May 2023 (REUTERS)

“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,” he wrote on X.

The White House also weighed in, accusing the tech CEO of spreading “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate.”

“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,” the White House said in a statement.

But the controversy was only just beginning.

The following day, Media Matters for America, a left-leaning media watchdog group, published an analysis showing advertisements from major brands like Apple, NBCUniversal, IBM, and Oracle appearing alongside openly pro-Nazi tweets on X.

In one example, a post claiming Hitler and the Nazis represented a “spiritual awakening” appeared right above an ad for Apple’s Mac computers.

Taken together, amid the already tense cultural backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war, seemed to be a breaking point for major advertisers, who were already wary of what the new X/Twitter would look like.

On Thursday, IBM told the Financial Times it had “suspended all advertising on X while we investigate this entirely unacceptable situation.”

A source at Apple told Axios that the company was doing the same, and a Lions Gate Entertainment spokesperson confirmed that it too was joining the exodus.

Disney has also paused spending on X, The New York Times reports.

The Independent has contacted X for comment.

Company leaders at X have appeared alternatively apologetic and nonchalant.

“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 wrote on Thursday on X. “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.”

Mr Musk, for his part, alternated between jokes and explanations.

He shared a clip of someone playing a video game level called “Echo of Hatred,” with the caption “defeating hatred is never easy,” while also endorsing a post about a book that claims IBM punch-card technology enabled the Nazis to carry out the Holocaust.

“Clear calls for extreme violence are against our terms of service and will result in suspension,” he wrote elsewhere on X on Friday.

Though this week has taken controversy on X to new heights, it’s not the first time the social network has been accused of enabling antisemitism.

In September, Mr Musk threatened to sue the ADL, blaming the watchdog group for “trying to kill this platform” with accusations of antisemitism.

“To be super clear, I’m pro free speech, but against anti-Semitism of any kind,” he added.

At the time, the ADL told The Independent it wouldn’t comment on legal threats, but noted Mr Musk happened to be working on the same side as a “Ban the ADL” campaign created by self-described antisemites.

“ADL is unsurprised yet undeterred that antisemites, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists and other trolls have launched a coordinated attack on our organisation. This type of thing is nothing new,” the ADL spokesperson said.

“Such insidious efforts don’t daunt us. Instead, they drive us to be unflinching in our commitment to fight hate in all its forms and ensure the safety of Jewish communities and other marginalised groups.”

Elsewhere, the network has been accused in recent days of allowing neo-Nazis to profit from X’s creator revenue-sharing programme.

This summer, a study from the Center for Countering Digital Hate alleged X failed to take down 99 per cent of a selection of hate content flagged by the group. The group alleged that “the platform is allowing them to break its rules with impunity and is even algorithmically boosting their toxic tweets.”

X disputes the findings.