Update (9/5/23): This article has been updated with additional details.
Elon Musk, the owner of the social media platform X (formerly Twitter), “liked” and responded to posts from a known antisemite with ties to white nationalist Richard Spencer demanding that the Anti-Defamation League be banned from the platform after its CEO spoke with X’s Linda Yaccarino.
On August 30, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt posted that he had “a very frank + productive conversation” with Yaccarino and discussed what the platform needs to do “to address hate effectively on the platform.”
Following Greenblatt’s announcement, Keith Woods — an antisemitic YouTuber who has associated with Spencer and who was seemingly reinstated to the platform under Musk after previously being banned — posted that “the ADL is an anti-White organisation which waged financial terrorism against this platform as soon as Elon Musk took over in an attempt to stifle free speech. It’s time to #BanTheADL.”
In response, other right-wing figures and far-right accounts, including white nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes, promoted the hashtag, contributing to “#BanTheADL” trending nationally on the platform.
Musk was among those who interacted with the hashtag, “liking” one of Woods’ tweets claiming the ADL is “financially blackmailing social media companies into removing free speech.” Woods subsequently bragged that “Elon Musk likes my call to #BanTheADL” and appeared to take credit for the hashtag trending.
Musk also directly responded to Woods pushing the hashtag, writing, “ADL has tried very hard to strangle X/Twitter,” and responded with exclamation points to another right-wing figure who attacked the ADL and its CEO.
For days, Musk repeatedly boosted right-wing attacks on the ADL while also targeting the organization himself. On September 2, Musk floated running a poll on the platform over whether to ban the ADL. On September 3, Woods tweeted a video of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, noting Jones called the ADL “the most pro-Hitler organisation I've ever seen.” The next day, Musk responded to Woods' tweet, claiming that the ADL was “ironically the biggest generators of anti-Semitism on this platform” because “they are so aggressive in their demands to ban social media accounts for even minor infractions.” Musk further claimed that the ADL “has been trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic” and floated the possibility that the ADL was creating fake accounts to harm the platform’s reputation.
That same day, Musk also threatened to sue the ADL: “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!” (Musk’s X Corp. has previously sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate, another organization focused on countering misinformation and extremism, “over claims it ‘embarked on a scare campaign’ to drive away advertisers.”)
Propping up anti-ADL attacks from a known antisemite after Yaccarino discussed hate speech on the platform with the ADL is the latest in a pattern of Musk undermining Yaccarino’s attempts to lure back advertisers with empty promises. (Lawyers for the company admitted that hiring the new CEO “will not result in a different content-moderation strategy for Twitter, a company that will still be owned by Musk and led by a person chosen by Musk.”)
After Musk took over the company, advertising revenue plummeted as advertisers have brand safety concerns over his behavior and policy changes. Media Matters and others have repeatedly found that the platform is plagued with hate speech, misinformation, and conspiracy theories (including in ads) — even after Yaccarino took over from Musk as CEO. Notably, Media Matters has found that ads for major brands have appeared on a verified pro-Hitler account and a leading neo-Nazi group that engages in violence, and next to content from white supremacists and Holocaust deniers.