Social media’s antisemitism problem
The rise in antisemitism since the outbreak of war in the Middle East has ignited a clash between Wall Street donors and universities, and divided some workplaces. Now, the pressure is building on social media platforms, particularly Elon Musk’s X and TikTok, with advertisers, celebrities and influencers pulling spending and confronting executives about the proliferation of hate speech.
The backlash against Musk is spreading. IBM pulled about $1 million in ad spending from X after Media Matters for America, a left-wing advocacy group, showed that ads were appearing “next to content that touts Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party.” Other big brands, including Apple and Oracle, were also appearing next to the content. And a major Tesla shareholder said Musk’s behavior was damaging the carmaker’s brand.
Musk’s own missives aren’t helping. He posted to X his support for white nationalist conspiracy theories that Jewish communities were spreading hatred. Musk was already embroiled in a fight with the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, that says the rise of antisemitic content has risen more sharply on X than on rival platforms.
The latest controversy will renew questions about the authority of X’s C.E.O., Linda Yaccarino. She said on Thursday that the company had “been extremely clear about our efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination.” (That prompted some to ask if she had addressed the matter with Musk.)
Yaccarino was brought in to win back advertisers after Musk bought Twitter last year and culled many content moderators. “Linda was a good hire, and the right hire, as long as she has the freedom to do what’s necessary,” Martin Sorrell, the British advertising mogul who now leads S4 Capital, a digital marketing firm, told DealBook earlier this year.
TikTok is also feeling the pressure over antisemitic content. More than a dozen Jewish celebrities and creators, including the actors Sacha Baron Cohen, Debra Messing and Amy Schumer, confronted TikTok executives this week. They said the company wasn’t doing enough to stamp out hate speech. They pointed to comments like “Hitler was right” or “I hope you end up like Anne Frank” under videos that they and other Jewish users had posted.
Cohen, who has previously slammed social media groups as “the greatest propaganda machine in history,” said that what “is happening at TikTok is it is creating the biggest antisemitic movement since the Nazis.”
Videos praising Osama bin Laden are surging in popularity on the platform, too. A flood of posts discussing a letter by bin Laden that defended the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — it also said Americans were “servants” to Jews — have gone viral.
The White House condemned the resurfacing of the letter, and some Republican lawmakers have renewed their calls to ban the app.
Alex Haurek, a spokesman for TikTok, said the company was “aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform,” but added that there was no “magic button” to fix the problems.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Unionized autoworkers back new pay deals. Members of the U.A.W. ratified (or were close to ratifying) the agreements to raise wages and boost benefits at Detroit’s Big Three automakers. The closest vote was at General Motors, where 55 percent of the nearly 36,000 union members cast ballots approving the deal. In related industry news, Hyundai will become the first carmaker to sell vehicles on Amazon.
A House committee concludes that Representative George Santos broke the law. The House Ethics Committee said it had found “substantial evidence” that the Republican of New York used campaign funds for personal purposes, defrauded donors and filed false or incomplete campaign finance disclosures. The committee will refer its findings to the Justice Department.
Alibaba shares plunge after company shelves the spinoff of its cloud computing unit. The Chinese tech giant’s stock fell almost 10 percent in Hong Kong after it reversed the plans and paused the I.P.O. of its supermarket unit. The company said that U.S. restrictions on chips had added uncertainty to its cloud business. Instead, it will refocus on artificial intelligence to power growth.
President Biden tells executives “real differences” remain with China. Business leaders attending the APEC summit in San Francisco were hoping for a kind of détente in the trade wars between Beijing and Washington. Instead, Biden told them that the U.S. would continue to press China with “smart policies and strong diplomacy.” Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader gave business leaders little reassurance that the business climate in China would improve.
C.E.O.s see another kind of “-flation”
For more than a year, consumer watchdogs and progressive lawmakers have accused companies of “greedflation,” increasing prices amid decades-high inflation. But just ahead of the holiday shopping season, the opposite pricing dynamic has popped up in quarterly earnings calls.
“We may be managing through a period of deflation in the months to come,” Doug McMillon, Walmart’s C.E.O., told analysts on Thursday. Shoppers could see grocery prices come under pressure and fall, he added. A similar trend is playing out for motorists. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude oil benchmark, has fallen roughly 20 percent since September.
Consumers are pulling back. That has been one of the big themes from recent earnings calls. Executives at the country’s biggest retailers, including Macy’s, Target, Home Depot and Walmart, have painted a picture of shoppers squeezed by a variety of forces.
“Overall, consumers are still spending, but pressures like higher interest rates, the resumption of student loan repayments, increased credit card debt and reduced savings rates have left them with less discretionary income, forcing them to make trade-offs,” Brian Cornell, Target’s chief executive, told analysts this week.
That could put pressure on pricing trends. Consumers are becoming less optimistic, economic data shows, and companies appear to be getting the message. Corporate chiefs have noticed that shoppers are increasingly putting away their wallets until they see discounts, sales or other promotions. And one phrase that’s beginning to disappear from analysts’ calls is “higher prices.”