Computer giant IBM is stopping all advertising on Elon Musk’s online platform X (formerly Twitter) after its ads were discovered alongside Nazi posts.
IBM does not tolerate hate speech and is investigating the “absolutely unacceptable situation,” a spokesperson said Thursday. The IT company wanted to spend around a million dollars on X in the last quarter, as reported by the New York Times, citing internal messages from the platform.
Just hours earlier, the organization Media Matters had shown how advertisements from IBM, Apple and the software company Oracle, among others, appeared on the X alongside posts with positive statements about Adolf Hitler and the ideology of the National Socialists.
This is far from the first time something like this has happened. Companies have little influence over exactly which posts their ads are placed on. Ads are displayed more with reference to target age groups, specific areas or interests of the user. To avoid a negative environment for their brands, advertisers primarily rely on X to consistently keep hate speech off the platform. Other online services have also had similar problems with their advertising clients in the past, for example Google’s video platform YouTube. At that time, it strengthened content supervision to win back advertising clients.
Since Musk bought Twitter a year ago, many companies have been concerned about exactly this and are moving away from the platform or limiting their spending. Musk has said multiple times that advertising revenue is only half of what it was during the Twitter era. Sometimes he tried to incite his followers against renegade advertisers. When reports emerged that Apple had cut ad spending on the platform, Musk visited CEO Tim Cook at his headquarters in Cupertino. X chief Linda Yaccarino, appointed by Musk, promised advertisers a safe environment.
Musk represents the political views of the American right and has accused Twitter’s former leadership of suppressing them. He promised more freedom of expression – all statements that did not violate the law would be allowed. At the same time, his firing actions greatly affected the Twitter teams that were supposed to ensure the elimination of hate speech.
The owner of X himself caused new controversy: he endorsed a post that spread an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. It said, among other things, that “hatred against white people” was being spread by Jews. Musk wrote in the post on Wednesday that it contained the “real truth.” Musk later added that he was referring to “some groups,” such as the Jewish organization Anti-Defamation League (ADL), that spread “effectively anti-white racism and anti-Asian racism.” In later statements, Musk reiterated that, in his opinion, there is a problem of racism against white people.
ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt, writing in The American Jewish Committee organization, also pointed out that the post supported by Musk contained elements of the conspiracy theory that played a role in the attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018. The attacker killed eleven people in the era.
Musk has more than 160 million followers on X. After previous criticism, he emphasized that he had no anti-Semitic views. Yaccarino wrote in X on Thursday that discrimination on all sides must end.
US investor Ross Gerber raised the question of what consequences Musk’s actions would have for the company he leads Electric car-Manufacturer Tesla will have. Musk is not acting in Tesla’s interests, Gerber criticized on CNBC TV channel. “He destroys everything he built” and damages the automaker’s reputation. He himself will replace his Tesla Model Y with a vehicle from competitor Rivian next year – “and I’m sure the rest of Los Angeles will do the same.”
IBM shares were unimpressed in NYSE trading and are trading 0.13% higher at $153.26.
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