Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will touch down in California on Monday to meet with Elon Musk. The talks come as civil rights groups accuse the X owner of amplifying anti-Semitism, an allegation he denies.
When Musk purchased Twitter, now called X, for $44 billion last year, he vowed to turn the site into a haven for free expression. He envisioned a virtual community without stringent user guidelines.
But his overhaul plan ran into turbulence early on, when he laid off thousands of employees, including some of his content moderators. The Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, accused Musk of enabling “purveyors of lies and conspiracies” after he reinstated many previously banned profiles–those belonging to white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Holocaust deniers among them.
In a recent post, Musk revealed that X’s ad revenue has dropped by 60% in the U.S. He blamed pressure from ADL, saying the organization “was almost successful in killing X/Twitter!” he wrote.
“The fact is, who would want to sponsor a platform that is looking very likely to cause real-world violence against [Jewish people]?” Claire Atkin, co-founder of the adtech watchdog Check My Ads, told VOA.
In a separate tweet, Musk said “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” he added.
“[The legal threats] are retaliatory and indicate that he is losing and panicking,” Atkins, the adtech expert, said. “Musk is looking for someone to blame for his own actions.”
Last month, Musk sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate, or CCDH, a British advocacy group. Days ago, CCDH released its latest findings: In an audit of 300 prejudiced tweets flagged for hate speech, only 14% of them were taken down within a week.
Musk lambasted CCDH in May for its “utterly false” reporting. He said that, in reality, “hate speech impressions,” or how many views bigoted posts garner, “continue to decline [on X].” How he reached that conclusion, though, is unclear.
Musk’s CEO Linda Yaccarino has emphasized building a rapport with civil rights groups and has said the platform is working to combat antisemitism.
But in August, Musk liked posts under #BanTheADL, a hashtag popularized by extremists like Nick Fuentes. By the end of the month, #BanTheADL ranked among X’s top trending topics.
The ADL, CCDH, and others used to research hate speech on the site using large-language models, or LLMs, which are AI-powered tools capable of combing vast databases for fine-tuned results.
Researchers say recent updates to X’s software interface block full access to data without a subscription to an enterprise account which starts at $42,000 per month. Outpriced researchers must rely on smaller sample sizes, which are inherently less accurate than LLM analyses.
The Monday evening talks with Netanyahu come a few months after Musk likened liberal-leaning philanthropist George Soros to a Jewish comic book supervillain.
Baseless antisemitic conspiracy theories have made the rounds of X saying Soros, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor, is the linchpin of a hidden global elite bent on overthrowing the world.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry accused Musk of legitimizing harmful tropes, saying his comparison “reeked of anti-Semitism.” But Netanyahu’s government minister for addressing anti-Jewish hatred went out of his way to rally for Musk.
Netanyahu spoke by phone with Musk in June, in an effort to help the Silicon Valley mogul to rebound from criticism over his “supervillain” remark. Since then, Musk has enlisted an entourage of prominent Jewish businessmen, including confidant and multimillionaire Joe Lonsdale, to speak out on his behalf. They reached out to the ADL in recent weeks hoping to cool tensions.
Netanyahu has touted his connections in Big Tech as pivotal to growing Israel into a “start-up nation.” He and Musk are expected to discuss AI before the prime minister jets off to meet President Joe Biden at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.
Offir Gutelzon, an Israeli-American tech entrepreneur and activist, says he plans to lead a nearby demonstration while the meeting takes place. His protest sign will read, “Shame on Netanyahu.”