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IBM suspends advertising on X after report says ads ran next to antisemitic content

Tesla and SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk reacts during an in-conversation event with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, Britain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. 

Kirsty Wigglesworth | Reuters

IBM has paused advertising on X after a report found that the tech company’s ads were placed next to antisemitic content on the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“IBM has zero tolerance for hate speech and discrimination and we have immediately suspended all advertising on X while we investigate this entirely unacceptable situation,” an IBM spokesperson told CNBC in a statement.

Media Matters for America published a report on Wednesday that said the media watchdog group “recently found ads for Apple, Bravo, Oracle, Xfinity, and IBM next to posts that tout Hitler and his Nazi Party on X.”

X CEO Linda Yaccarino has been attempting to win back advertisers that stopped their campaigns after Elon Musk purchased the company last year. Researchers and advocacy groups have documented a rise of controversial content on X, though the company has disputed those claims.

An X spokesperson told CNBC in an email that the accounts that Media Matters said were posting the hateful content would no longer be monetizable. The accompanying content would also be labeled not safe for work, limiting its reach.

X’s advertising system “is not intentionally placing a brand actively next to this type of content, nor is a brand actively trying to support this content with placement,” the spokesperson said. “Groups like Media Matters aggressively search for posts on X and then go to the accounts, and if they see an ad, Media Matter researchers keep hitting refresh to capture as many brands as possible.”

A spokesperson for Comcast, which owns Bravo and is also the parent of CNBC, said it’s investigating the situation.

Apple and Oracle didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

IBM’s decision to halt advertising on X also comes after Musk on Wednesday boosted and drew attention to an antisemitic X post and issued statements that drew backlash from critics. In one post, Musk criticized the Anti-Defamation League, alleging that the nonprofit “unjustly attacks the majority of the West, despite the majority of the West supporting the Jewish people and Israel.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt responded in a post on X saying, “At a time when antisemitism is exploding in America and surging around the world, it is indisputably dangerous to use one’s influence to validate and promote antisemitic theories.”

Yaccarino weighed in on Thursday, writing on X that the company’s “point of view has always been very clear that discrimination by everyone should STOP across the board — I think that’s something we can and should all agree on.”

“When it comes to this platform — X has also been extremely clear about our efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination,” Yaccarino wrote. “There’s no place for it anywhere in the world — it’s ugly and wrong. Full stop.”

As a result of Musk’s recent inflammatory comments, a coalition of 163 Jewish leaders on Thursday issued a statement under the banner X Out Hate, reiterating their call for big companies like Disney, Apple and Amazon “to stop funding X through their ad spend.”

The group also called on “Apple and Google to remove X from their respective app stores, per their own rules.”

X Out Hate originally voiced their concerns over antisemitic and hateful content in September.

“It has been two months since we originally put out our call for large advertisers like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Disney to stop funneling money onto X as antisemitism explodes on the platform,” the group said in the statement. “Nothing has changed. Except for the danger Jews are in.”

— CNBC’s Jordan Novet contributed to this report

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