Democrats accuse Elon Musk and X of profiting from Hamas propaganda

The letter from almost 30 House Democrats marks just the latest development in the growing antisemitism row encircling Mr Musk and the social media platform

Martha McHardy
Wednesday 22 November 2023 13:51 GMT
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A group of nearly 30 House Democrats has accused Elon Musk and X of profiting from Hamas propaganda.

The group, led by Reps Jamie Raskin and Dan Goldman, sent a letter to Mr Musk and X CEO Linda Yaccarino on Tuesday accusing the company of not following its own policies regarding “violent and hateful entities,” which prohibits promotion of terrorist organizations and propaganda and states the platform works to remove such violations.

The letter outlined reports from non-profit research groups that showed X accounts sharing “uncensored videos depicting the desecration of corpses”.

The lawmakers said such content was being spread in “the darkest corners” of the platform through hashtags used by people monitoring updates about the Israel-Hamas war.

They added that the posts and accounts “were allowed to remain live for days after their policy violations had been publicized”.

The group went on to accuse X of profiting off the back of the “Hamas propaganda” being shared, “through monthly subscription fees collected from some propaganda spreaders” and “ads displayed in replies to posts by both Premium and regular accounts”.

This, the lawmakers said, is “indefensible”.

The lawmakers concluded by asking Mr Musk and Ms Yaccarino to “uphold your public commitments and enforce your policies”. They also asked the pair to provide “all forms of written communications … relating to content moderation for any posts or accounts associated with, related to, or connected to Hamas”.

X did not immediately returnThe Independent‘s request for comment.

However, the same day that the letter was sent, Mr Musk announced plans to donate all revenue the social media platform generates from advertising and subscriptions linked to the war to hospitals in Israel and the Red Cross in Gaza.

“X Corp will be donating all revenue from advertising & subscriptions associated with the war in Gaza to hospitals in Israel and the Red Cross/Crescent in Gaza,” he posted on X.

The condemnation from House Democrats marks just the latest development in the growing antisemitism row encircling Mr Musk and the social media platform.

Since Mr Musk’s $44bn acquisition of X closed last year, he has relaxed moderation policies on the platform and cut many staff involved with moderating content.

In recent months, Mr Musk has come under fire on multiple occasions over content promoting antisemitism on the site.

Mr Musk has also sparked outrage over his own peronal posts and comments which have promoted antisemitic content.

Last week, the self-described “free-speech absolutist” said a post which promoted an antisemitic theory was “the actual truth”.

A social media user had appeared to push the “great replacement” conspiracy theory on X, claiming that Jewish communities “have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them”.

“I’m deeply disinterested in giving the tiniest s*** now about Western Jewish populations coming to the disturbing realisation that those hordes of minorities that support flooding their country don’t exactly like them too much. You want truth said to your face, there it is,” the post added.

Mr Musk responded by writing: “You have said the actual truth.”

His response received praise from white nationalist Nick Fuentes – while prompting widespread backlash from dozens more, including the White House, with many accusing him of antisemitism.

He later responded to the accusations of antisemitism, insisting “nothing could be further from the truth”.

A group of nearly 30 House Democrats has accused Elon Musk and X of profiting from Hamas propaganda

“This past week, there were hundreds of bogus media stories claiming that I am antisemitic. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he wrote.

“I wish only the best for humanity and a prosperous and exciting future for all.”

Days later, left-wing non-profit organisation Media Matters published a report revealing that adverts from big brands including IBM, Apple, Oracle and Bravo were running next to pro-Hitler and antisemitic content on Mr Musk’s social media platform.

The revelation prompted a series of major companies – including Disney, Apple and IBM – to pull advertising from X.

On Monday, Mr Musk responded by filing a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters.

He and other X executives denied the accusations in the report, saying that the research strategy used by the non-profit to uncover the content placed next to company adverts was not representative of how regular people use its platform.

The organisation had followed accounts that posted the content, then refreshed the X timeline until adverts appeared, X executive Joe Benarroch said.

Meanwhile, an X spokesperson told The Independent the company did not intentionally place the adverts next to the posts from the antisemitic accounts, which have now been demonetised, meaning advertising can no longer run on their profiles. However, the accounts have not been removed.

Media Matters president Angelo Carusone issued a statement on Monday addressing Mr Musk’s campaign against the organisation, calling the lawsuit “meritless” and “an attempt to silence reporting that he even confirmed is accurate”.

“Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content we identified. If he does sue us, we will win,” the non-profit said.

This came after an earlier scandal in the days after the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel, where Mr Musk was forced to delete a post in which he amplified an account widely accused of antisemitism and promoted debunked videos as reliable sources of information about the attack.

Last year, advocacy organisation the American Jewish Committee called on Mr Musk to apologise over a controversial post that made a satirical comparison between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Adolf Hitler.

Mr Musk has previously insisted that he is “pro free speech” but against antisemitism “of any kind”.

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