November 19, 2023
In the spotlight this week, Tesla, X (formerly Twitter), and SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk have found themselves embroiled in controversy over antisemitic and racist content on Musk’s social media platform, X. The situation escalated on Saturday as Musk issued a threat to sue media watchdog Media Matters and those involved in criticizing his platform.
The controversy erupted after several major U.S. companies, including IBM, Apple, Disney, and others, suspended advertising on X due to their ads being promoted alongside antisemitic content.
Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group, revealed that advertisements from prominent companies were placed alongside content promoting Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
Musk, who acquired X in 2022, faced backlash on Wednesday when he endorsed an antisemitic post on the platform falsely claiming that members of the Jewish community were fostering hatred against white people. The White House joined the condemnation, labeling Musk’s actions as a “hideous” endorsement of antisemitic conspiracy theories that go against American core values.
In response to the controversy, Musk took to X to announce his intention to file a lawsuit against Media Matters and others involved in what he termed a “fraudulent attack” on his company. He did not specify the parties involved but asserted that legal action would be taken once the court opens on Monday.
Media Matters responded by labeling Musk a “bully” and dismissing the legal threat as “meritless.” The watchdog’s president, Angelo Carusone, pointed out that Musk admitted the ads in question ran alongside pro-Nazi content identified by Media Matters. Carusone confidently stated, “If he does sue us, we will win.”
This isn’t the first time Musk has threatened legal action against entities critical of X. In the past, he targeted the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a nonprofit organization combating antisemitism, blaming it for X’s loss of ad revenue.
However, Musk has yet to file a lawsuit against the ADL.
Advertisers have been leaving X since Musk’s acquisition in October 2022, citing reduced content moderation and a surge in hate speech. Civil rights groups have noted a significant increase in hate speech on the platform.
The controversy comes at a challenging time for Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla. The electric carmaker is facing several lawsuits alleging widespread racial and sexual harassment of workers.
Antisemitism, a growing concern in the United States and worldwide, has seen a spike in incidents, with a nearly 400% increase in the United States following the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on October 7, according to the ADL. The situation reflects broader societal challenges and tensions that extend beyond Musk’s digital ventures.