Elon Musk’s threat to sue an antisemitism watchdog extends platform’s war of words

Over the last several days, the owner of X, formerly Twitter, has posted at least 25 times about the Anti-Defamation League.

Anti-Defamation League logo, left, and Elon Musk. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

(RNS) — Since buying Twitter last year, Elon Musk has developed a seeming obsession with the Anti-Defamation League.

Over the last several days, the owner of X, formerly Twitter, has posted at least 25 times about the ADL, a nonprofit Jewish group that fights antisemitism.

His fixation grew Monday (Sept. 4), when Musk threatened to sue the group — initially for $4 billion, and subsequently up to $22 billion — claiming the organization’s criticism of his management of X has led to a 60% drop in advertising revenue. In one post, he said the ADL was “trying to kill the platform.”

It all began in November when the ADL called on advertisers to pause their spending on the social media site “until it becomes clear whether Twitter remains committed to being a safe place for advertisers as well as society overall.” The ADL itself resumed advertising on the site a few months later.

On Wednesday, a spokesman confirmed to Religion News Service that the ADL again halted any spending on advertising on X as of this weekend.

Musk may also be aggrieved by an ADL report issued in May that found “an increase in antisemitic content on the platform and a decrease in the moderation of antisemitic posts.”

That report cited the platform’s decision to reinstate influential users it had once banned because of posts deemed antisemitic, which resulted in some 5,000 conspiracy-laden antisemitic posts. Those posts included disinformation about George Soros and the Rothschild banking family, often repeating long-standing conspiracy theories about Jews controlling global politics, finance and media, as well as statements about Jews pushing a radical agenda to destroy “the West.”

After X’s new CEO, Linda Yaccarino, met with ADL’s chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt, last month in an effort to improve relations, some X users launched a campaign with the hashtag #BantheADL.

Jake Shields, whose bio on X identifies him a “mixed martial arts champion and right-wing extremist,” led the charge. “Let’s get this trending to help wake the masses of how evil they truly are,” Shields posted.

The hashtag soon became a top trending topic, and on Friday, Musk “liked” a post supporting the campaign. At one point, he suggested  X “run a poll” on whether to ban ADL from the platform.

At the same, Musk denied any personal antisemitism. In a Monday post, he said: “To be super clear, I’m pro free speech, but against anti-Semitism of any kind.”

The ADL’s Greenblatt responded in a statement: “It is profoundly disturbing that Elon Musk spent the weekend engaging with a highly toxic, antisemitic campaign on his platform — a campaign started by an unrepentant bigot that then was heavily promoted by individuals such as white supremacist Nick Fuentes, Christian nationalist Andrew Torba, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and others.”

Greenblatt called Musk’s threat of a lawsuit “frivolous” and said Musk’s behavior was reckless and dangerous, coming two weeks ahead of the Jewish High Holidays.

The Forward, a daily Jewish publication, has since recently started a running list of Musk’s “disturbing comments.”

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