BUSINESS + ECONOMY

Major brands are not only pausing ads on Elon Musk’s X. They’re stepping away from the platform altogether

Nov 27, 2023, 9:00 PM

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his security detail depart the company's local office in Washington, U.S. J...

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his security detail depart the company's local office in Washington, U.S. January 27. A number of media brands have not only paused their paid marketing campaigns on Elon Musk's X but have ceased posting on it altogether. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Originally Published: 27 NOV 23 21:53 ET

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Sign up for the daily digest chronicling the evolving media landscape here.

(CNN) — The exodus from X is bleeding beyond just major advertisers.

In recent days, a number of prominent media brands have not only paused their paid marketing campaigns on the embattled Elon Musk-owned social platform, but have ceased posting on it altogether, going silent on the once essential site that sought to be the world’s “digital town square.”

The flagship accounts belonging to Disney, Paramount, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures, Universal, and Warner Bros. Discovery (CNN’s parent company) have not posted on the platform in roughly 10 days, following Musk’s disturbing endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory, which he still has not apologized for.

None of the studios commented on the record when CNN reached out for comment. But people familiar with the social media strategies of Paramount and WBD confirmed under the condition of anonymity that it’s no coincidence: the companies have made the active decision to stop posting under certain handles on X due to concerns, including brand safety.

The blackout on X extends beyond these companies’ corporate accounts, in some cases. For instance, the most high profile accounts affiliated with Disney have gone dark on X, such as @StarWars, @Pixar, and @MarvelStudios, which were previously posting multiple times a day on the platform to their millions of followers. Instead, these brands have switched over to the Meta-owned rival Threads, where they have started actively posting.

For instance, when “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Monday shared the news that host Stephen Colbert would be off the air this week due to appendicitis, the program did so on Threads. Prior to Musk’s backing of an antisemitic post, Colbert’s show, however, was primarily active on X, regularly posting videos and other content. Now, the inverse is true.

When reached for comment on Monday, a representative for X did not directly address questions on the loss of the media behemoths on the platform, which must be setting off alarm bells inside the social media company. It is already quite bad for the struggling company to be starved of advertising revenue. It’s even worse if it is also starved of content, particularly from household entities that have helped make the platform the center of real-time discussion for years.

It is, of course, possible that these companies will reverse course down the road and resume posting and even advertising on the platform. It would not be the first time that has happened after advertisers have fled an outlet en masse. But it’s also possible that won’t happen.

With Musk at the helm of the platform for the foreseeable future overseeing the critical decisions that have led to a surge in hate speech (while also personally contributing himself to the awful rhetoric), the risk versus reward calculus on whether to engage with the company has taken a sharp nosedive. The situation is not dissimilar to when Tucker Carlson permanently chased most advertisers away from Fox News’ 8pm hour during his time at the network.

And if more companies and other notable figures abandon Musk’s platform for other social networks, it will extinguish the allure it once had, providing yet another reason for average users to ditch the troubled platform.

“Every day, more brands are waking up to the reality that Twitter is dead and X is a cesspool,” Platformer’s Casey Newton said. “The global town square is now dispersed across many different platforms, and increasingly the most relevant conversations are taking place elsewhere.”

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Major brands are not only pausing ads on Elon Musk’s X. They’re stepping away from the platform altogether