Brands are facing criticism for their continued association with Elon Musk's social media platform X, following the billionaire's endorsement of antisemitic views. Yale professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a noted authority in leadership studies, has labeled this association as "irresponsible" and potentially damaging for advertisers.
In a phone interview with CNN, Sonnenfeld stated, “It’s self-destructive for any advertiser to be associated with him. It’s pathological”. Musk ignited fresh controversy by responding affirmatively to a post on X, which alleged that Jewish communities foster “hatred against Whites”.
His reply, “You have said the actual truth,” has drawn significant backlash.
Advertisers' Dilemma and Internal Tensions at X
In the wake of Musk's controversial statement, some major brands, including Disney, NBCUniversal, and Warner Bros.
Discovery, the parent company of CNN, have paused their advertising on X. While these companies haven’t directly linked their decision to Musk's post, concerns have been raised about their ads appearing next to antisemitic content on the platform, as reported by Media Matters.
Sonnenfeld criticized any public company's decision to advertise on X, citing the platform's alleged endorsement of 'replacement theory,' a notion prevalent in far-right circles suggesting a plot to diminish the political power of White people through immigration.
Responding to these accusations, Joe Benarroch, head of business operations at X, defended the platform's stance on free speech in an email to CNN. Meanwhile, X has accused Media Matters of distorting the platform's content and misleading advertisers.
Musk has also initiated a lawsuit against Media Matters, a battle the group believes it can win. The controversy has placed additional financial strain on X, already grappling with challenges. This situation also presents a significant challenge for X CEO Linda Yaccarino, who joined the company earlier this year to enhance its advertising business.
Despite calls for her resignation, including from Sonnenfeld, Yaccarino remains committed to her role, expressing her belief in the platform's vision and team. This unfolding situation reflects the growing tension between corporate advertising decisions and social media platforms' content policies, highlighting a complex landscape where brand values and free speech intersect.