Controversy Unveiled: House Democrats Accuse Elon Musk's X of Profiting from Content Linked to Hamas Violence

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Politics / Wednesday, 22 November 2023 04:50

"House Democrats Accuse Elon Musk's X of Profiting from Hamas-Related Content, Sparking Calls for Accountability"

A group of over two dozen House Democrats, led by Reps. Dan Goldman of New York and Jamie Raskin of Maryland, has accused Elon Musk's X of "profiting off violent content by a terrorist organization." In a letter obtained by CNBC, the lawmakers expressed concern over the alleged presence of terrorist propaganda and misinformation on the platform, particularly linked to the recent Oct. 7 terror attack in Israel by Hamas militants, a designated terror group since 1997.

The letter decries the platform's handling of antisemitic content as "inexcusable" and "outright indefensible" in light of recent events. The lawmakers have called on Musk and X CEO Linda Yaccarino to provide detailed answers by December 1, including all forms of written communications related to content moderation for posts or accounts associated with Hamas. The legislators also seek information on X's plans to address existing Hamas-related content and the company's strategies to prevent the spread of terrorist propaganda in the future.

The accusations come amid a broader controversy involving Musk and X, as they face allegations of antisemitism that have led major brands like Apple, Disney, and Comcast to pause their online advertising on the platform. Musk's public agreement with an antisemitic conspiracy theory has drawn condemnation from various quarters, including the White House. Concurrently, a report from the watchdog group Media Matters for America has accused X of placing ads from major brands next to posts promoting Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. X has not yet responded to CNBC's request for comment.

Elon Musk vehemently denies allegations of bigotry and antisemitism, stating in a Sunday post that media reports labeling him as antisemitic are "bogus" and "nothing could be further from the truth." Musk expressed a commitment to humanity's well-being and a prosperous future for all. He has also criticized Media Matters, calling them "pure evil" and announced his intention to file a "thermonuclear lawsuit" against the outlet and those involved in what he considers a fraudulent attack on his company.

X CEO Linda Yaccarino, appointed by Musk in May, asserted on Thursday that X has been transparent about its efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination. Musk's legal threat was dismissed by Media Matters President Angelo Carusone as "meritless" and an attempt to silence accurate reporting confirmed by Musk himself.

The letter from Representatives Dan Goldman and Jamie Raskin on Tuesday refrains from directly singling out Musk for his controversial posts. Instead, it highlights numerous X accounts reportedly spreading Hamas terrorist propaganda videos glorifying acts of violence against Israelis. Citing investigations by the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), the lawmakers note instances of graphic, uncensored videos violating X's content policies. The reports also indicate X's financial gains from subscription fees and ad revenue related to the spread of harmful propaganda.

By purchasing X Premium, the accounts flagged in the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) and Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) reports are obtaining verification without a formalized vetting process, thereby gaining promotion through the website's algorithm, as outlined in the Democrats' letter. Additionally, the letter refers to a NewsGuard report from mid-October, analyzing 250 high-engagement posts related to the Israel-Hamas War. Of these, 186 posts came from accounts with Premium verification, highlighting a concerning trend where misinformation is associated with paid Premium accounts.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

In conclusion, the controversy surrounding Elon Musk's X escalates as over two dozen House Democrats, led by Representatives Dan Goldman and Jamie Raskin, accuse the platform of "profiting off violent content by a terrorist organization." The lawmakers express concern about the alleged dissemination of terrorist propaganda and misinformation, particularly in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attack in Israel by Hamas militants.

Elon Musk vehemently denies accusations of bigotry and antisemitism, challenging media reports and vowing legal action against Media Matters. X CEO Linda Yaccarino defends the platform's efforts to combat antisemitism, but Musk's legal threats are dismissed as attempts to stifle accurate reporting.

The Democrats' letter underscores troubling findings from investigations by the Tech Transparency Project and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, revealing instances where Premium accounts, purchased on X, spread harmful content without formal vetting. The letter also cites a NewsGuard report associating misinformation with Premium-verified accounts.

As X faces increased scrutiny and backlash from advertisers, including major brands pausing their online advertising, the unfolding situation brings to light complex challenges involving content moderation, verification processes, and the broader impact of misinformation on social media platforms. The disclosure that Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC adds another layer of significance to the unfolding events.