Europe’s largest car manufacturer, which was founded in 1937 by the German Labour Front under the direction of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party, suspended advertising on Twitter this week following Elon Musk’s plans to water down the censorious ‘content moderation’ that has become a hallmark of the microblogging site in recent years.
The VW Group, which also owns Audi, Bentley, and Porsche, and is therefore a major competitor of Musk’s Tesla, said in a statement reported by Tagesspiegel that it has “recommended its brands to pause their paid activities on the platform until further notice.” The company stopped short of making it a permanent move, however, adding: “We are monitoring the situation closely and will decide on the next steps depending on how things develop.” The announcement comes as other major brands, including fellow German car giant Audi and American food producer General Mills have also said they would be pausing advertisements on Twitter. Mr Musk, for his part, said this week: “Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists. Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.” The Tesla billionaire went on to vow that a “thermonuclear name [and] shame [campaign] is exactly what will happen if this continues.” Volkswagen has come under increasing scrutiny over its operations in China, a major market for the German auto titan. Such is the importance of the Chinese market to Volkswagen that its CEO Oliver Blume was a part of the business delegation that travelled to Beijing alongside Chancellor Olaf Scholz this week to deepen economic ties between the two nations. Besides relying on the communist country for a significant portion of its sales and profits, Volkswagen also controversially runs a factory in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang province, where millions of ethnic minorities, including Muslim Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and others have reportedly been imprisoned in concentration camps, as well as being used for slave labour. Volkswagen, among other major German firms, has been accused of profiting off of such slave labour, a claim the company has denied. Blume recently defended his company’s involvement in the Xinjiang region, saying: “This is about taking our values out into the world. Also to China in the Uyghur region.” The German car company has a sordid history with the use of slave labour, using thousands of Jews and other Eastern Europeans as forced labour during the Nazi era to produce its cars. In 1998, the company admitted that it had used approximately 15,000 slaves during the Second World War. In 1938, Hitler himself laid the cornerstone for Volkswagen’s factory in Wolfsburg as he tasked the firm with producing the so-called “people’s car” which would later become the Beetle. Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka.
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