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Apple and Disney have paused advertising on Elon Musk’s X, said people familiar with the matter, becoming the latest big brands to pull spending from the social media platform amid concerns about antisemitic content.
Musk, who bought X last year for $44bn, has drawn criticism for endorsing an antisemitic post on the platform earlier this week. Meanwhile, a report from left-leaning non-profit group Media Matters on Thursday found adverts for top brands next to posts touting “pro-Nazi” views.
Apple and Disney are following IBM, which on Thursday announced it was pulling global advertising from the platform. Other companies mentioned in the Media Matters report included Oracle and Comcast’s Xfinity, a telecoms company, and Bravo, the TV network.
Apple was the fourth-largest advertiser on X in the year to date, according to Sensor Tower data.
Media Matters released another report on Friday showing that ads for companies including Amazon, NBA Mexico, and NBCUniversal’s brand agency had appeared next to content with white nationalist tags.
Amazon, NBA and NBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The advertiser exodus marks the latest blow to chief executive Linda Yaccarino, who was hired by X in June to win back marketers after many pulled their spending from the platform in the wake of Musk’s takeover.
Those companies were increasingly concerned their adverts would be placed next to toxic content after Musk relaxed the site’s moderation policies and fired many staff overseeing platform safety. Ad revenues fell about 50 per cent as a result, Musk said in July.
Since then, Yaccarino, formerly the head of advertising at NBCUniversal, has been on a charm offensive, meeting with advertisers and agencies to reassure them that the company was investing more in safety. But critics warn she has little power to stop Musk himself from tweeting controversial posts, which also drives away advertisers.
On Wednesday Musk, a self-declared “free speech absolutist”, touted an antisemitic conspiracy theory on X, drawing opprobrium. A White House spokesperson released a statement about his comments on Friday, condemning the “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate”.
Apple’s decision to pull advertising from the platform could have huge implications for its commercial relationship with X. Already, in November last year, Musk claimed the iPhone maker was pulling advertising and threatening to remove the platform from its App Store, asking his followers: “Do they hate free speech in America?” A meeting between the controversial billionaire and Apple chief executive Tim Cook later calmed the dispute.
Apple’s decision was first reported by Axios, and the New York Times first reported Disney’s move.
X declined to comment.
On Thursday, following the FT’s reporting that IBM had culled its spending on the platform, Yaccarino tweeted: “X’s point of view has always been very clear that discrimination by everyone should STOP across the board . . . When it comes to this platform — X has also been extremely clear about our efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination.”
Additional reporting by Christopher Grimes in Los Angeles
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