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Advertisers drop X after Musk backs controversial post

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – An exodus of big-name advertisers appeared under way at X, formerly Twitter, on Friday in the wake of Elon Musk endorsing a controversial conspiracy theory.

Non-profit group Media Matters added Apple, Disney, Comcast, Lionsgate Entertainment, and Paramount Global to its list of companies pausing advertising on X.

“Lionsgate has suspended advertising on X because of Elon Musk’s recent tweets,” a spokesperson for the motion picture production and distribution company told AFP.

IBM on Thursday said it stopped advertising on X due to a report its ads were shown next to pro-Nazi posts at X.

Apple and Disney did not reply to requests for comment.

“Major blue-chip companies are announcing they will suspend all advertising,” the group said on a web page featuring a running list.

The White House on Friday condemned Musk who replied to a controversial post on X with the words: “You have said the actual truth.”

The logo of US online social media and social networking service X. PHOTO: AFP

The original post has been perceived by the White House and the US media as a reference to a longtime conspiracy theory among White supremacists that there’s a secret plan to bring in illegal immigrants to weaken white majorities.

Most notoriously, the idea was promoted by the man who carried out a mass shooting at a religious building in Pittsburgh in 2018, killing 11 people.

Referring to Musk’s post, White House spokesman Andrew Bates said it was “unacceptable” to repeat such a “hideous lie”.

“We condemn this abhorrent promotion of hate in the strongest terms, which runs against our core values as Americans,” Bates said.

In the year since taking over Twitter, now rebranded as X, Musk has gutted content moderation, restored accounts of previously banned extremists, and allowed users to purchase account verification, helping them profit from viral – but often inaccurate – posts.

A recent study by the disinformation monitoring group NewsGuard found that paying subscribers at X were the big spreaders of misinformation about the Palestinian war.

“During all of this Musk-induced chaos, corporate advertisements have also been appearing controversial accounts,” Media Matters said in a post displaying samples of what it found at X.

Media Matters reported that it found Apple, Oracle and IBM ads displayed next to posts touting controversial figures 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 New York-based tech firm said in response to an AFP inquiry.

An X executive told AFP that it did a “sweep” of accounts pointed out by Media Matters and they will no longer be able to make money from ads.

The posts themselves will be labelled “sensitive media,” according to the executive.