Elon Musk has vowed to file a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against a US media watchdog that claimed adverts were appearing on X alongside antisemitic posts, as major brands including Disney and Apple fled the platform.
Watchdog group Media Matters for America said earlier this week that it had found that corporate advertisements for IBM, Apple, Oracle and Comcast’s Xfinity were being placed alongside antisemitic content on X, formerly known as Twitter.
IBM on Thursday said it had suspended all advertising after the watchdog said its adverts were placed next to content promoting Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
The advertisment exodus saga began one day before the watchdog’s intervention, when a social media user appeared to push the “great replacement” conspiracy theory on X, claiming that Jewish communities “have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them”.
Mr Musk replied to the post, writing on his X platform: “You have said the actual truth.”
Disney, Warner Bros Discovery and Comcast, Lions Gate Entertainment and Paramount Global are also pausing their ads on X. Axios reported that Apple would do the same.
Hitting back on Saturday at the exodus of advertisers on the platform, Mr Musk wrote a post in which he said: “Many of the largest advertisers are the greatest oppressors of your right to free speech.”
The Tesla founder added in a second post: “The split second court opens on Monday, X Corp will be filing a thermonuclear lawsuit against Media Matters and all those who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company.”
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone responded to the threat in a statement to the Daily Beast on Saturday afternoon.
“Far from the free speech advocate he claims to be, Musk is a bully who threatens meritless lawsuits in an attempt to silence reporting that he even confirmed is accurate,” Mr Carusone said. “Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content we identified. If he does sue us, we will win.”
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.
Premium+ also has no ads in your timeline.
Many of the largest advertisers are the greatest oppressors of your right to free speech. https://t.co/dVkTMaGV2b
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 18, 2023
X’s content policy 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.
On Thursday, Media Matters, a left-leaning media watchdog group, published 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.
Mr Musk has also 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 responded to the claims, calling them “dangerous”.
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 antisemitism of any kind,” he added.
The White House also weighed in, accusing Mr Musk 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.