IBM stops advertising on X after report says ads show Nazi content

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Inc., during a fireside discussion about the risks of artificial intelligence with Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, not pictured, in London, United Kingdom, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. Sunak convened this week’s AI summit in a bid to position the UK at the forefront of global efforts to prevent the risks posed by rapidly advancing technology, which the prime minister himself says could lead to human extinction. Photographer: Tolga Akmen/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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

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

Media Matters for America released a report Wednesday saying the media watchdog group “recently found ads for Apple, Bravo, Oracle, Xfinity and IBM next to posts promoting Hitler and his Nazi Party of X.”

X CEO Linda Yaccarino is trying to win back advertisers who stopped their campaigns after Elon Musk bought the company last year. Researchers and advocacy groups have documented an increase in controversial content on X, although the company has disputed these claims.

An X spokesperson told CNBC in an email that accounts that Media Matters said were posting hateful content would no longer be monetized. Companion content will also be flagged as unsafe for work, limiting its reach.

X’s ad system “does not intentionally place a brand actively next to this type of content, nor does a brand actively attempt to support this content with placement,” the spokesperson said. “Groups like Media Matters aggressively look for X posts and then go to the accounts, and if they see an ad, Media Matters researchers keep hitting refresh to catch as many brands as possible.”

A spokesman for Comcast, which owns Bravo and is also the parent of CNBC, said it was looking into the situation.

Apple and Oracle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

IBM’s decision to stop advertising X also comes after Musk on Wednesday stepped up and called attention to an anti-Semitic X post and issued statements that drew backlash from critics. In one post, Musk criticized the Anti-Defamation League, claiming the nonprofit “unfairly attacks the majority of the West, even though the majority of the West supports the Jewish people and Israel.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt responded in a post on X, saying, “At a time when anti-Semitism is exploding in America and growing around the world, it is undeniably dangerous to use your influence to endorse and promote anti-Semitic theories.”

Yaccarino weighed in Thursday, writing x that “the company’s view has always been very clear that discrimination against everyone has to 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 anti-Semitism and discrimination,” Yacarino wrote. “There is no place for this anywhere in the world – it’s ugly and wrong. Period.”

In the wake of Musk’s recent inflammatory comments, a coalition of 163 Jewish leaders on Thursday released a statement titled X Out Hate, reiterating their call for big companies like Disney, Apple and Amazon to “stop funding X through their ad spending.”

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

X Out Hate first raised their concerns about anti-Semitic and hateful content in September.

“It’s been two months since we originally issued our call to major advertisers like Apple, Google, Amazon and Disney to stop funneling money to X as anti-Semitism explodes on the platform,” the group said in a statement. “Nothing has changed. Except the danger the Jews are in.”

— CNBC Jordan Novet contributed to this report

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