Elon Musk amplifies call by antisemites to ban the ADL from X

Boss of platform formerly known as Twitter asks his followers if he should poll the platform about the hashtag #BanTheADL, embraced by white nationalists and others on far right

File: Elon Musk departs the Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Court House in San Francisco on Jan. 24, 2023 (AP Photo/ Benjamin Fanjoy, File)
File: Elon Musk departs the Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Court House in San Francisco on Jan. 24, 2023 (AP Photo/ Benjamin Fanjoy, File)

JTA — Elon Musk is engaging with white nationalists and antisemites who want to ban the Anti-Defamation League from Twitter, the influential social media platform he now calls “X.”

Musk on Saturday asked his followers whether he should poll the platform about a hashtag, #BanTheADL, embraced in recent days by white nationalists and others on the far right.

Musk had earlier “liked” the tweet launching the hashtag by Keith Woods, an Irish white nationalist and self-described “raging antisemite.”

“The ADL’s favourite tactic is financially blackmailing social media companies into removing free speech on their platforms,” Woods said in his Aug. 31 tweet. “Why should they have a platform on X to hold @elonmusk to ransom? It’s time to #BanTheADL.”

Musk liked two subsequent tweets by Woods, who touted Musk’s support to his followers. The hashtag was widely embraced on Twitter by the far right, including by Andrew Torba, a Christian nationalist who refuses to speak with Jewish reporters and who founded Gab, a social media site, as a redoubt for the far right after Twitter started banning extremists. The shooter who killed 11 Jews at prayer in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 broadcast hours plans on Gab before the attack.

Woods’ tweet came after a day after Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO, spoke with Linda Yaccarino, the CEO of X, about users trafficking in hate on the platform. The ADL has tracked massive spikes in racist, antisemitic and homophobic content and harassment since Musk bought the platform last year and restored extremist accounts banned under the previous management.

Linda Yaccarino at Liberty Theater during 2016 Advertising Week New York on September 28, 2016, in New York City (D Dipasupil / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Greenblatt sounded positive about his conversation with Yaccarino, named to the job earlier this year after Musk ostensibly promised to cede leadership to a professional.

“I had a very frank + productive conversation with @LindayaX yesterday about @X, what works and what doesn’t, and where it needs to go to address hate effectively on the platform,” Greenblatt tweeted on Aug. 30. “I appreciated her reaching out and I’m hopeful the service will improve. @ADL will be vigilant and give her and @ElonMusk credit if the service gets better… and reserve the right to call them out until it does.”

In its response, the ADL attacked those who launched the campaign but did not mention Musk or his encouragement of the campaign.

“ADL is unsurprised yet undeterred that antisemites, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists and other trolls have launched a coordinated attack on our organization,” said a statement emailed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“This onslaught comes following our participation in the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, where ADL proudly marched shoulder-to-shoulder with African-American leaders and those from other minority communities,” the statement said. “It also follows a meeting with the leadership of X, formerly known as Twitter, that 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.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks at the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Aug. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The ADL has criticized Musk but also has sought to accommodate some of his requests, including issuing a condemnation last month of an Apartheid-era fight song calling to kill white farmers. Musk, who is a native South African, claimed the song supports anti-white hate. In May, Musk clashed with the ADL after it took him to task for echoing antisemitic tropes in his attack on George Soros, the liberal Jewish megadonor and hedge funder.

Musk, who claims to be a “free speech absolutist” has banned and made legal threats against journalists and others whose questions, tweets and statements upset him, with a focus on those, like the ADL, that track hate on the platform. In July, he sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate for its reports on Twitter.

Musk’s poll question on Saturday, “Perhaps we should run a poll on this?” quoted an endorsement of the trend by a Dutch right-winger. In exchanges in the replies, which are overwhelmingly positive, Musk said the century-old Jewish civil rights group has been “hijacked by the woke mind virus” and says it would be funny if it were sued for defamation.

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