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More Advertisers Halt Spending on X in Growing Backlash Against Musk

More major advertisers have paused their spending on X, the social media service formerly known as Twitter, as the backlash continued over Elon Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory on X.

The entertainment company Warner Bros. and Sony have joined other prominent brands in halting their spending on X. IBM cut off its advertising on X on Thursday, while Apple, Lionsgate, the entertainment and film distribution company, and Paramount Global, the media giant that owns CBS, all paused their ads on Friday.

The spending freeze comes as X has fought to win back advertisers who were wary of spending on the platform after Mr. Musk took it over a year ago and said he would loosen content moderation rules. Major brands tend to be cautious about placing their ads next to posts with offensive or hateful speech.

Mr. Musk, who bought Twitter in October 2022 and renamed it X, drew scrutiny this week after replying to a post on X that accused Jewish people who are facing antisemitism amid the Israel-Hamas war of pushing the “exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them” and supporting the immigration of “hordes of minorities.”

“You have said the actual truth,” Mr. Musk replied. Jewish groups said that Mr. Musk’s message boosted a conspiracy theory known as replacement theory, which claims that Jews have organized nonwhite immigrants to replace the white race. The concept was embraced by Robert Bowers, who killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.

Mr. Musk’s statement drew condemnation from the White House on Friday. Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said in a statement that it was “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.”

Mr. Musk lashed out at advertisers who had pulled their dollars from X on Friday, and threatened legal action against Media Matters, a left-wing advocacy organization that said it found antisemitic content on X and highlighted advertisements for Apple, IBM and other brands that appeared alongside posts touting Hitler and the Nazi Party.

In a post on Friday night, Mr. Musk said, “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.”

X said that the research strategy used by Media Matters to discover the advertisements that ran along antisemitic content was not representative of how regular people use its platform. The organization followed accounts that posted the content, then refreshed the X timeline until ads appeared, X said in a blog post. Only one of the nine posts highlighted by Media Matters violated its content moderation rules, X added.

In a statement, Joe Benarroch, the head of business operations at X, said, “50 impressions served against the content in the article, out of 5.5 billion served the whole day, points to the fact of how efficiently our model avoids content for advertisers.” He added, “Data wins over allegations.”

Media Matters said that it would defend itself from litigation by X. “Far from the free speech advocate he claims to be, Musk is a bully threatening a meritless lawsuit in an attempt to silence reporting that he even confirmed is accurate,” said Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters. “Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content we identified. This is like getting mad at a mirror because you don’t like the reflection. If he does sue us, we will win.”

Ryan Mac contributed reporting.

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