By Clare Duffy, CNN
New York (CNN) — At least a dozen major brands have halted ad spending on X, formerly Twitter, since its latest advertiser exodus began last week over concerns about antisemitism and hate speech on Elon Musk’s social media platform.
Fox Sports, Ubisoft, Axios, TechCrunch and Paris Hilton’s 11:11 Media all told CNN in recent days that they’d paused their ad spending on X, joining other large advertisers that jumped ship last week.
The ongoing exit of advertisers marks a deepening crisis for X, which was already struggling to woo brands back to the platform following Musk’s takeover last year. And it comes as growing numbers of X users also decamp to alternate platforms. The White House joined Threads this week, giving a boost to Meta’s X competitor.
The latest revolt began last week when IBM said it had suspended advertising on X after a report from progressive media watchdog Media Matters found its ad had run alongside pro-Nazi content on the platform. IBM’s decision also came after Musk had publicly endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory in a post on X earlier in the week.
On Friday, a slew of major media brands including Disney, Paramount, Comcast, Lionsgate, NBCUniversal and CNN-parent Warner Bros. Discovery followed suit, although they did not specify their reasons for halting advertising on X. Apple also reportedly pulled its ad spend on X as of last week, according to reports from multiple news outlets.
X has called on its advertising partners to help protect what it calls “freedom of speech.” The company on Monday filed a lawsuit accusing Media Matters of misrepresenting how likely it is for ads to run alongside extremist content on the site. X also said it had made the pro-Nazi accounts identified by Media Matters ineligible for monetization, meaning ads can no longer be run on their pages. And CEO Linda Yaccarino has continued to tout brand safety controls that the company says can help prevent ads from running beside objectionable content. (Media Matters has vowed to fight the lawsuit from X and says it stands by its reporting.)
But the company has done little else to reassure advertisers that its platform is safe. The pro-Nazi accounts identified by Media Matters remain active on the site, along with other far-right and White supremacist accounts, some of whom Musk had reinstated on the platform following his takeover. CNN on Wednesday observed ads for the University of Michigan running on the page of the X account belonging to Richard Spencer, a known White nationalist. (The University of Michigan did not immediately respond to a request for comment; X has noted ads are placed on its site using an automated system.)
Musk this week also boosted the years-old, debunked “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that in 2016 prompted a gun-wielding man to fire shots inside a Washington, D.C., pizza shop.
Some advertisers have remained on X despite the hate speech concerns. The National Football League — one of the platform’s biggest ad partners — told CNN Tuesday that it had repeatedly expressed concerns about hate speech to X leadership directly, although it has not pulled its spending from the platform.
–CNN’s Oliver Darcy, Liam Reilly and Brian Fung contributed to this report.
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.