IBM has pulled advertising from Elon Musk’s X after adverts for the computing giant appeared alongside pro-Nazi posts.
On Thursday, Media Matters, a left-leaning non-profit group, published a report that said it had found adverts from big brands including IBM, Apple, Oracle and Bravo running next to pro-Hitler and antisemitic content.
“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,” a spokesperson for the technology firm told The Independent.
IBM has come under fire several times for its links to the Nazi party during the Second World War.
An account called @xDaily, which posts news about the platform, put up its analysis of Media Matter’s findings. It believes the watchdog was “scrolling down on user profile of antisemitic accounts until they see an ad”.
The account blamed X’s automated Ad Adjacency tools that cannot determine if a post is antisemitic, as well as users now being able to monetise on advertisements that run on their profiles.
Mr Musk relaxed moderation policies and cut many staff involved with safety on the platform when his $44bn acquisition closed last year. Mr Musk did not have anything to say in response to the antisemitic posts, apart from commenting under @xDaily’s analysis to say: “Media Matters is an evil organisation.”
An X spokesperson told CNN that the brands did not specifically target the pro-Nazi accounts in the watchdog report, nor did the company intentionally place their advertising there.
The spokesperson said they have reviewed the accounts in the report and said they will no longer be monetisable, meaning advertising can no longer run on their profiles.
“While we understand it’s not an ideal placement for any ad, the post itself had about 8,000 impressions,” the spokesperson added about one of the posts in the report where an IBM advert had appeared.
While the X news account and Mr Musk may challenge Media Matters research, the left-leaning watchdog pointed out a promise X CEO Linda Yaccarino made to companies about advertising staying away from hate discourse on X.
She promised brands that they were now “protected from the risk of being next to” the proliferating toxic content on X, as new content controls would apparently reduce this risk, according to CNBC.
Media Matters is an evil organization
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 17, 2023
Ms Yaccarino’s boss, Mr Musk, may have different ideas after continuing evidence of his endorsement of antisemitic conspiracy theories surfaced on his platform.
On Wednesday, Mr Musk, the self-described “free-speech absolutist”, responded “You have said the actual truth” to a tweet where 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”.
“I’m deeply disinterested in giving the tiniest s*** now about Western Jewish populations coming to the disturbing realisation that those hordes of minorities that support flooding their country don’t exactly like them too much. You want truth said to your face, there it is,” the post added.
Mr Musk’s response received praise from white nationalist Nick Fuentes – while prompting widespread backlash from dozens more online.
Mr Musk later backtracked on his initial post, writing that “decolonisation necessarily implies a Jewish genocide; thus, it is unacceptable to any reasonable person”.
Ms Yaccarino reiterated her previous callouts on antisemitism in another post on Thursday, a day after Mr Musk’s “actual truth” tweet.
“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,” she wrote.
The CEO and other X staff have reportedly been scrambling to put out the fires being lit by Mr Musk, according to The New York Times.
The outlet said they have seen messages by X sales employees asking what they could say to their clients, who have been allegedly calling in about Mr Musk’s recent remarks and advertising showing up next to antisemitic posts.
This is not the first time the business magnate has been accused of dropping himself into the centre of content that promotes antisemitism.
In the days after the 7 October Hamas terror attack on Israel, Mr Musk was impelled to delete a post where he amplified an account widely accused of antisemitism and of promoting debunked videos as reliable sources of information about the attack.
In September, he threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League, a century-old NGO that describes itself as the “leading anti-hate organisation in the world” after the organisation accused him of antisemitism.
Since Mr Musk’s takeover of the platform, X has also seen the reinstatement of far-right accounts, most recently the British anti-Islamist activist Tommy Robinson.
An executive from X told The Independent in a statement that they did “a sweep on the accounts that Media Matters found and they will no longer be monetisable and that the specific posts will be labeled ‘Sensitive Media’.”
The X executive also pushed back on Media Matters saying that they “aggressively searched” on accounts and hit refresh to capture as many brand advertisements as possible.
They also argued that X is not intentionally placing brands next to “this type” of content and brands are not actively trying to support this content either.
The Independent has contacted IBM and the other companies that appeared in the Media Matters report.