Elon Musk, the mercurial billionaire owner of the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, may or may not be a racist and an antisemite. But he keeps doing and saying things that make it difficult to conclude that he isn’t.
Most recently, Musk generated a firestorm when he endorsed an antisemitic post on X that claimed that “Jewish communities” in the U.S. have stoked “hatred against whites” and pushed to “flood the country” with “hordes of minorities” — a white supremacist conspiracy theory known as “the Great Replacement.” Musk’s endorsement of the post was roundly criticized — including by the White House.
One day after Musk’s post, the progressive media watchdog Media Matters for America published a report showing that ads for major companies such as Apple and IBM were being carried on X next to explicitly pro-Nazi and other offensive posts, despite promises from X executives that the advertisers would be “protected” from such inappropriate juxtapositions.
Immediately following the Media Matters report, major companies, including Apple, Sony, Warner Bros, Disney and IBM, canceled their X advertising programs, a move that further damaged Musk’s diminishing financial return on his epic $44 billion investment in the platform.
In response, Musk filed what he called a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters, accusing the group of artificially manipulating the X network algorithms to achieve the reported juxtapositions — even though the suit admits that the placements shown by Media Matters had actually occurred.
Musk’s legal action against Media Matters could backfire. Not only does the suit seek to stop criticism in a way that directly contradicts the very First Amendment rights Musk claims to uphold in allowing hate-filled posts on his platform, but the discovery process that will likely be pursued by Media Matters in conjunction with the suit could seriously damage the reputations of both X and Musk, himself — thereby alienating even more advertisers and causing further financial hemorrhaging to the platform.
Musk’s suit-filing tantrum was likened by Angelo Causone, the head of Media Matters, to “getting mad at a mirror because you don’t like the reflection.” That analogy is appropriate since Musk’s problems at X are of his own making. Since acquiring the company, he gutted content moderation and policy teams responsible for stopping hate speech and abuse. He also cut back on sales teams responsible for ongoing relations with advertisers, which left them with no one to address their concerns.
Similarly, Musk’s own inflammatory statements — from antisemitic conspiracy theories about George Soros to claiming that Mark Zuckerberg “bought” the 2020 election — have further alienated the X advertising base.
To add to Musk’s concerns, a group of 27 House Democrats sent him and X’s CEO, Linda Yaccarino, a letter on Nov. 21, expressing “grave concern” about the platform circulating and profiting from Hamas propaganda videos and false content about the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. The letter noted that in promoting and profiting from the offending materials, X violated its own “violent and hateful entities” policies, which prohibit the promotion of terrorist organizations and their propaganda.
We have little doubt that Musk will try to bully anyone who challenges him. But, as he continues to embrace hateful rhetoric and thinking, Musk will continue to lose support for X and the respect of fair-minded people.