IBM-led advertising X-odus gains steam as more flee Musk's platform

Ad execs have reportedly urged CEO Yaccarino to step down in protest to save her reputation

IBM may have led the latest advertising X-odus from Elon Musk's social media platform, but several other companies reportedly joined Big Blue over the weekend, amid calls for Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino to quit to save face.

As we reported at the end of last week, IBM pulled advertising from the platform in the wake of a report by Media Matters that found several ads from IBM, Apple, Oracle and other big names had appeared alongside antisemitic posts. The Media Matters report itself followed Musk's endorsement of the great replacement conspiracy theory, which claims a global Jewish cabal is trying to flood majority White countries with minority immigrants. Musk has since stressed he is not antisemetic.

Media Matters has since published a second report which claims to have found ads for Major League Baseball, eBay, and pharmaceutical titan Bayer next to posts advocating the murder of LGBTQ activists and politicians, and other prominent brands advertised alongside hate content. 

Now it appears Apple, Disney, Warner Brothers Discovery, Paramount, Lions Gate, and Comcast have all joined IBM in a boycott of advertising on X, and CEO Linda Yaccarino is increasingly in the hot seat over her decision to defend Musk's antics.

We also note there is a downturn in advertising spending among corporations generally. We've also not heard of advertisers pulling out of other social networks, which no doubt also have problematic content on them, though on the other hand: those networks don't have an owner openly sharing thoughts on weird theories, which is bound to rattle big risk-adverse brands.

"Protecting the freedom of speech could not be more urgent and important. Now, more than ever," Yaccarino said on Saturday.

Multiple advertising executives have reportedly contacted Yaccarino in the wake of the Media Matters report and Musk's inflammatory comments, allegedly telling the X CEO that she is risking her reputation as an advertising and commercial partnership dealmaker by remaining at X's helm. According to Forbes, which said it confirmed the advertising leaders' pleas to Yaccarino, they urged her to step down as a way to make a statement about the problem of racism and antisemitism on X, but she has so far resisted. 

We've asked Twitter to respond to questions about the tumultuous past few days, but haven't heard back. 

Meanwhile, some right-leaning media outfits and companies have pledged to book ads on X in response to the boycott. We're unsure if they'll be able to cover the shortfall from Disney et al.

We could have a SLAPP fight on our hands

In a blog post over the weekend, X's safety team said Media Matters' reporting "completely misrepresented the real user experience on X, in another attempt to undermine freedom of speech and mislead advertisers." 

X restated much of what it told us last week - that Media Matters had refreshed posts repeatedly to get the right ads to show up, which X called "a rare instance" that only occurred in Media Matters being served 13 times the number of ads an average X user would see. 

Of the offending posts in the original Media Matters report, X claimed only one post violated X's content policies, and it was removed. It's unclear which was removed, but the posts Media Matters identified supported the Nazi regime as a source of spiritual awakening, denied the existence of the holocaust and promoted supposedly positive aspects of the Third Reich.

Musk threatened Media Matters with a "thermonuclear lawsuit" over the weekend (that for some reason couldn't be filed electronically and had to wait until "the split second court opens on Monday"), but it's unclear if they've much of a legal leg to stand on. Instead, an actual filing could open X up to claims of a SLAPP lawsuit - the ads may not have shown up many times, but they did show up, as X itself admitted. 

"Far from the free speech advocate he claims to be, Musk is a bully who threatens meritless lawsuits in an attempt to silence reporting that he even confirmed is accurate," Media Matters president Angelo Carusone said of X's legal threats. "Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content we identified. If he does sue us, we will win."

In a statement sent to The Register, Media Matters' Carusone, said:

“At issue here is whether X’s ad filtering operates in the way they say it does. X claims that ads won’t appear adjacent to extremist content. We’ve shown in several reports, including the one at issue that X confirmed was accurate, that the system is not functioning as described.” ®

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