Elon Musk, the CEO of X (formerly known as Twitter), has been involved in a controversy surrounding the presence of ads for mainstream brands on the platform alongside user posts promoting pro-Nazi views. Media Matters for America (MMFA), a media watchdog group, published a report highlighting this issue, which led to several major brands, including Apple, Comcast/NBC Universal, Disney, IBM, Lions Gate, Paramount Global, and Warner Bros. Discovery, pausing their ad spending on X.
In response to this, Musk took to Twitter to lash out at the advertisers and Media Matters. He announced that X Corp. would be filing a lawsuit against Media Matters and all those involved in what he called a "fraudulent attack" on his company. Musk accused Media Matters of colluding with others and promised that the discovery and depositions in the lawsuit would be "glorious to behold."
Musk also promoted a paid, ad-free subscription version of X, called Premium+, and claimed that many of the largest advertisers are the "greatest oppressors of free speech." However, he did not specify which advertisers he was referring to.
A spokesperson for X responded to the controversy, accusing Media Matters of misrepresenting the user experience on the platform. The spokesperson claimed that Media Matters created an alternate X account to curate posts and misinform advertisers about the placement of their ads.
This controversy raises broader issues about brand safety and moderation of hateful and false content on social media platforms. Other platforms like Facebook, Reddit, and TikTok also face similar challenges.
Musk himself has faced criticism for promoting bigoted viewpoints in his own tweets. He has been accused of promoting antisemitic and racist hate, which led to backlash from brands, critics, and even the White House. Musk agreed with a post falsely claiming that Jewish people have been pushing "dialectical hatred" against white people.
While Musk has recently promised to suspend accounts engaging in what he views as genocidal speech, his remarks have drawn criticism from organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). It remains to be seen whether Musk will follow through on his threat to sue Media Matters.
Overall, this controversy highlights the ongoing challenges faced by social media platforms in maintaining brand safety and addressing hate speech and misinformation. The actions and statements of both Musk and Media Matters have sparked a heated debate about free speech, responsible advertising, and the role of platforms in moderating content.