Billionaire businessman Elon Musk is threatening to sue the Anti-Defamation League for defamation, claiming that the Jewish organization’s statements about rising hate speech on X, previously known as Twitter, have savaged X’s advertising revenue.
Musk has been promoting extremist attacks against the ADL, a nonprofit Jewish organization committed to fighting all extremist hatred, regardless of its target. The rise of social media has provided a powerful platform for groups with radical ideologies to disseminate their views. This can lead to action: neo-Nazis flew swastikas and saluted Hitler (video) outside Disney World again. Social media has led to a proliferation of hate speech, bigotry and targeted harassment, with the Jewish community often being a prime target.
There have been massive increases in hateful content and harassment since Musk assumed leadership of Twitter. Bans against former users were rescinded, including the largest neo-Nazi website that uses his platform to recruit new followers. Entertainer Kanye ‘Ye’ West once tweeted a picture of a Star of David merged with a swastika and Musk tweeted an antisemitic meme. ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt recently met with Twitter’s CEO to discuss hate trafficking. Linda Yaccarino tweeted that “a strong and productive partnership is built on good intentions and candor.”
Recently released reports, From Bad to Worse: Algorithmic Amplification of Antisemitism and Extremism and Auto-generating & Autocompleting Hate showed the proliferation of antisemitic and other extremist hate on social media, the promotion of content from hate groups and violations of social media companies’ own policies.
Antisemites, white nationalists and conspiracy theorists began lashing out at the ADL following its participation at the 60th anniversary of MLK’s March on Washington. The agitators launched a social media campaign against the ADL to ban it on Twitter. Musk liked a tweet launching this movement by an Irish white nationalist who describes himself as “a raging antisemite.”
The ADL stated that its recent meeting with Twitter leaders “clearly upset these hateful groups. Such insidious efforts don’t daunt us. Instead, they drive us to be unflinching in our commitment to fight hate in all its forms and ensure the safety of Jewish communities and other marginalized groups.”
The ADL, NAACP and other civil rights organizations called for a temporary ad ban in response to the rise in bigotry on Twitter. The ADL has since resumed buying ads on the site. However, Musk questions his responsibility for the increase in hate and announced he wants to sue the ADL for billions of dollars because “the ADL has been trying to kill this platform.” The social media company recently filed a lawsuit against the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
Musk is considering banning the ADL from using his social media platform. Musk bought Twitter last year. He considers himself a “free speech absolutist.” However, Twitter changed its policies late last year so it could suspend an account that used publicly available flight data to track Musk’s private jet.
Greenblatt labeled Musk's actions "flat out dangerous and deeply irresponsible," calling the threatened lawsuit frivolous and urging "responsible leaders to lead.” There is a fine line between free speech and hateful incitement and between responsibility and regulation.
Even Musk stated that it was ironic he would consider suing the Anti-Defamation League for defamation of his company.
The ADL was founded in September 1913 after American Jew, Leo Frank, was falsely accused of murdering a 13-year-old Christian girl in Atlanta. The case received sensationalized national media attention. His trial was marred by a biased investigation, a prejudiced jury and a hostile public sentiment fueled by anti-Jewish propaganda. Despite inconsistencies in the evidence against him, Frank was convicted and sentenced to death, then lynched by a mob after his sentence was commuted by Georgia’s governor.
Securing the Jewish Community for the High Holidays
Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos recently described the threats to American Jews: “It just caught my eye every time I go to a Jewish community building or a Jewish celebration, I see that they have to have someone guarding the door, a police officer. When I go to church, I don’t see that. I think that’s a reminder of the threat to the Jewish community.”
The Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement – represent significant annual communal events. Unfortunately, synagogues and other Jewish community organizations must increase security to guard against attacks. Extremists influenced by social media killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh and one Jewish worshipper at the Poway, CA, synagogue shooting.
Fake bomb threats – swatting attacks – have recently been called into synagogues to disrupt prayer services at dozens of Jewish houses of worship across the country. Israel has also warned its citizens of kidnapping threats over the holidays by Iranian-backed groups, especially Hamas.
“This urgent matter is the safety of the Jewish people in the face of increasing, intensifying antisemitism. Musk is engaging with and elevating these antisemites at a time when ADL is tracking a surge of bomb threats and swatting attacks of synagogues and Jewish institutions, dramatic levels of antisemitic propaganda being littered throughout Jewish and non-Jewish residential communities, and extremists marching openly through the streets in Nazi gear just two weeks away from the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.” – ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt