Video Source: Advocate Channel
(CNN) — Some of the world’s most recognizable brands have opted to continue their advertising partnerships with X despite the surge in hate speech on the platform and owner Elon Musk’s continued peddling of misinformation and right-wing conspiracy theories, including an endorsement last week of an antisemitic post.
The NFL, Walmart, State Farm, Wendy’s, Office Depot, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, USAA insurance, Formula 1 and Mondelēz International, the maker of Oreo cookies and Ritz Crackers, are among the most recognizable companies that have maintained their relationship with the embattled social media platform amid a swell of controversy.
All of the brands have stated company values that would indicate they oppose hate. Butoutside the NFL, none of the companies responded to CNN’s requests for comment.
Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s chief spokesperson, told CNN in a short statement that the sports league “unequivocally denounces all forms of hate speech and discrimination” and had expressed “concerns directly to X.”
The decision from the NFL and other companies to continue linking arms with X stands in contrast to how other major brands have responded to the controversy spurred by Musk, who took ownership of the platform formerly known as Twitter last year.
Since Musk’s takeover, the platform has reinstated accounts previously banned for harassment and abuse, eliminated verification of authentic information sources and instituted a paid blue checkmark system that has boosted the visibility of racist accounts. Musk has also embraced and fanned the flames of dangerous conspiracy theories, sued an organization exposing the rise in hate speech on the platform, attacked George Soros — a frequent source of antisemitic abuse — and threatened the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group.
In recent days, Apple, Disney, IBM, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Fox Sports, Paris Hilton’s 11:11, Warner Bros. Discovery (CNN’s parent company) and others have all suspended their advertising campaigns on X.
For its part, X said it has removed the ability for certain pro-Nazi accounts to monetize and implemented brand safety controls meant to prevent their ads from running alongside objectionable content. But those assurances have rung hollow as advertisements have continued to be placed on accounts posting hate speech and conspiracy theories.
While Musk maintains that he is not antisemitic, industry experts have said that continuing a relationship with X is unwise and could cause brand damage.
“Elon introduced unique risks,” marketing industry veteran Lou Paskalis, the founder and chief executive of marketing consultancy AJL Advisory, told CNN. “If I was still runningadvertising … I would not recommend returning to this platform until three months after he sold it.”
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the renowned professor and senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management, said it is “irresponsible” for companies to continue marketing their products on X.
“It’s self-destructive for any advertiser to be associated with him,” Sonnenfeld told CNN. “It’s pathological.”
Musk last week ignited fierce backlash when he backed an antisemitic post that accused Jewish people of “hatred” against White people. His endorsement of the post came as the progressive watchdog Media Matters issued a report that indicated advertisements for major brands appeared next to neo-Nazi hate speech on X.
The one-two punch led to an advertiser exodus Friday that has bled into this week.
Instead of apologizing for his conduct and acknowledging advertiser concerns, Musk has lashed out at his critics. On Monday, he filed a lawsuit against Media Matters, which said it stood by its reporting and would fight Musk in court.
Legal experts have told CNN that the lawsuit is deeply flawed and could open the billionaire up to embarrassing revelations during the discovery process.
“This lawsuit is riddled with legal flaws, and it is highly ironic that a platform that touts itself as a beacon of free speech would file a bogus case like this that flatly contradicts basic First Amendment principles and targets free speech by a critic,” First Amendment attorney Ted Boutrous CNN.
“And in some ways it’s a dream come true for the people at Media Matters,” Boutrous added, “because it could allow them to use the litigation discovery process to force X to divulge all sorts of embarrassing, damaging private information that it would much rather keep secret.”
CNN’s Clare Duffy contributed to this report.
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