X CEO calls article that led to latest brand exodus 'misleading and manipulated'

                        X CEO calls article that led to latest brand exodus 'misleading and manipulated'
By: Engadget Posted On: November 20, 2023 View: 53

X CEO Linda Yaccarino called a report from a watchdog group that led to a large-scale advertiser pullout “misleading and manipulated” in a note she sent to X employees on Sunday night.

“While some advertisers may have temporarily paused investments because of a misleading article, the data will tell the real story,” Yaccarino wrote in the note, which was first published by The Hollywood Reporter, and which Engadget has seen a copy of. “Because for all of us who work at X, we’ve been extremely clear about our efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination, as there’s no place for it anywhere in the world.” Yaccarino’s note was titled “Our Work is Meaningful”.

She also framed the situation as a free speech issue, writing that “no critic will ever deter us from our mission to protect free speech.” In doing so, she aligned herself with X owner Elon Musk’s repeated claims that free speech on the platform is paramount. Musk has repeatedly dismissed concerns of hate speech increasing on X ever since he bought the service last year.

Major advertisers including IBM, Apple, Disney, Lionsgate, Warner Brothers Discovery, Paramount Global, and NBCUniversal, whose advertising division Yaccarino previously headed, pulled their ads from X last week after a report from watchdog group Media Matters for America found that ads from some of these brands ran next to pro-Nazi content on the website. The move also came days after Musk publicly endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory as a response to a far-right X user. Musk’s comment drew widespread criticism, including a statement from the White House, which called his post an “abhorrent promotion of Antisemitic and racist hate” that “runs against our core values as Americans.”

On Friday, Musk said that the company would file “a thermonuclear lawsuit against Media Matters and ALL those who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company[.]" The company filed the lawsuit on Monday.

Yaccarino was already under pressure to resign as X CEO from advertisers who are questioning her decision to risk her reputation to protect Musk, Forbes reported. In a post on X on Monday morning, Yaccarino doubled down on her criticism of Media Matters. “When you’re this consequential, there will be detractors and fabricated distractions, but we’re unwavering in our mission,” she wrote. “Thank you for standing with us!”

An X spokesperson sent a link to Yaccarino’s X post in response to Engadget’s request for comment.

Update, November 20, 2023, 7:41PM ET: This story was updated to state that X filed a lawsuit against Media Matters on Monday.

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