X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, is facing yet another firestorm after a pair of recent scandals have reignited allegations of antisemitism and prompted advertisers to flee.
Here’s what to know about the latest controversy plaguing the platform.
Musk sparks backlash with antisemitic conspiracy theory
X owner and CEO Elon Musk initially sparked a wave of backlash last Wednesday, when he appeared to endorse a post promoting an antisemitic conspiracy theory.
After one X user claimed that Jews have been encouraging “dialectical hatred against whites” and referenced the “hordes of minorities that support flooding their country,” Musk suggested that the poster had said “the actual truth.”
The original post echoes an antisemitic conspiracy theory often espoused by hate groups that accuses Jews of wanting to flood Western countries with nonwhite immigrants.
The man who carried out a mass shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 alluded to the conspiracy theory in the last words he posted online before entering the synagogue and killing 11 people. The shooting was the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history.
Musk also went after the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Wednesday night, claiming that the watchdog group dedicated to fighting antisemitism “unjustly attacks the majority of the West, despite the majority of the West supporting the Jewish people and Israel.”
“This is because they cannot, by their own tenets, criticize the minority groups who are their primary threat,” he said in a reply to his first post. “It is not right and needs to stop.”
Companies halt ad spending after reports from Media Matters
X’s problems multiplied Thursday when Media Matters for America said it had found ads for companies including Apple, Bravo, Oracle, Xfinity and IBM placed next to posts celebrating Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party on the platform.
The left-leaning media watchdog group reported Friday that it had also found ads for Amazon, NBA Mexico, NBCUniversal Catalyst, Action Network and Club for Growth next to posts featuring white nationalist hashtags.
“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 company said in a statement to the Financial Times.
Apple; NBCUniversal and its parent company, Comcast; Disney; Lionsgate; Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery followed suit, similarly pausing their advertising on the platform, CNBC reported.
Critics call Musk’s post ‘unacceptable,’ ‘dangerous’
The White House slammed Musk’s post as “unacceptable” Friday, emphasizing the conspiracy theory’s ties to the Tree of Life shooting and the recent rise in antisemitism in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
“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,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement.
“We condemn this abhorrent promotion of Antisemitic and racist hate in the strongest terms, which runs against our core values as Americans,” he added.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt similarly pointed to “surging” antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world in criticizing the billionaire’s comments Thursday.
“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. #NeverIsNow,” Greenblatt said in a post on X.
X Out Hate, a group of more than 100 Jewish leaders, renewed its calls for Disney, Apple, Amazon and other large advertisers to stop placing ads on X and for Apple and Google to remove the platform from their app stores.
“It has been two months since we originally put out our call for large advertisers like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Disney to stop funneling money onto X as antisemitism explodes on the platform,” the group said Thursday. “Nothing has changed. Except for the danger Jews are in.”
Musk dismisses allegations, threatens to sue Media Matters
Following the widespread backlash, Musk dismissed the allegations of antisemitism as “bogus” in a post Sunday afternoon.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “I wish only the best for humanity and a prosperous and exciting future for all.”
The billionaire also threatened to sue Media Matters, alleging that the group’s reports “completely misrepresented the real user experience” on X in an attempt to “mislead advertisers.”
“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,” Musk said early Saturday morning.
X CEO Linda Yaccarino similarly described the findings from Media Matters as “misleading and manipulated” in a note to employees Sunday night.
“While some advertisers may have temporarily paused investments because of a misleading and manipulated article, the data will tell the real story,” Yaccarino said. “Because for all of us who work at X, we’ve been extremely clear about our efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination, as there’s no place for it anywhere in the world.”
Latest in a series of controversies since Musk’s takeover
Last week’s scandals and public backlash mark the latest in a series of setbacks for X as the platform attempts to regain advertisers that fled following Musk’s takeover last year.
Musk acquired the company then known as Twitter for $44 billion last October and quickly made significant changes to the platform.
He fired top executives, laid off about half of the company’s workforce, rolled back content moderation policies and reinstated previously banned accounts during his first few months.
Musk’s moves came at a steep cost, spooking major advertisers and prompting many to halt spending. By January, some 625 of Twitter’s top 1,000 advertisers had pulled their ad dollars, according to CNN.
In the year since Musk’s takeover, a multitude of controversies have hindered X’s efforts to win back advertisers. X Out Hate initially called for advertisers to halt advertising on the platform amid Musk’s public feud with ADL over accusations of rampant antisemitism on X.
Following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war last month, the social media platform also faced scrutiny over the rapid spread of misinformation and disinformation related to the conflict.