Owner of X (formerly Twitter), Elon Musk, threatens lawsuit against Anti-Defamation League over claims platform is antisemitic
Elon Musk has offered up another insight into the advertising decline at X (aka Twitter), after he threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Meanwhile former conservative MP Louise Mensch, who quit politics to move to New York, replied to Musk that Twitter does indeed have a “massive antisemitism and racism problem”, and Musk needs to stop “shooting the messenger”.
New York-based Anti-Defamation League is an international Jewish non-governmental organisation that specialises in civil rights law and combats antisemitism and extremism.
It has alleged that antisemitic posts on X increased sharply after Musk bought the site in October 2022, and the platform subsequently reinstated extremists and conspiracy theorists, while allowing the harassment of former members of its now-dissolved trust and safety council.
But Musk seems to be blaming the ADL for Twitter’s advertising woes and has threatened to sue the group.
To clear our platform’s name on the matter of anti-Semitism, it looks like we have no choice but to file a defamation lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League … oh the irony!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 4, 2023
Musk then offered an insight into the advertising problem at Twitter, revealing that advertising sales for the business were down 60 percent.
“Based on what we’ve heard from advertisers, ADL seems to be responsible for most of our revenue loss,” Musk tweeted. “Giving them maximum benefit of the doubt, I don’t see any scenario where they’re responsible for less than 10 percent of the value destruction, so ~$4 billion.”
“To be super clear, I’m pro free speech, but against anti-Semitism of any kind,” he tweeted.
“Advertisers avoid controversy, so all that is needed for ADL to crush our US & European ad revenue is to make unfounded accusations,” Musk tweeted. “They have much less power in Asia, so our ad revenue there is still strong.
“This ‘controversy’ causes advertisers to ‘pause’, but that pause is permanent until ADL gives the green light, which they will not do without us agreeing to secretly suspend or shadowban any account they don’t like,” Musk added.
Unlikely to succeed
One legal expert told the Guardian newspaper that Musk could attempt to sue for defamation under US state law but is unlikely to succeed.
“Whether or not someone is antisemitic is fundamentally a matter of opinion, which is protected expression. Elon’s threats of litigation seem to be in effort to dissuade ADL from perpetuating a message he does not like,” said Jennifer Safstrom, a professor at Vanderbilt University law school.
Linda Yaccarino, the chief executive of X, said last month that the platform had become a safer place under Musk’s ownership. “By all objective metrics, X is a much healthier and safer platform than it was a year ago,” she said.
Musk made good a recent threat when he followed through and sued another anti-hate speech group, the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).
That lawsuit accused CCDH of damaging X’s relationship with advertisers. CCDH has said it would fight the lawsuit and keep holding “Twitter’s feet to the fire”.