The X logo and the ADL logo with Musk's face on a yelllow background

Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Far-right figures and antisemites praised Elon Musk for boosting their campaign to #BantheADL on X

Virulent antisemite Andrew Torba and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes celebrated reaching an “audience of one” who is the “richest man in the world,” with Torba praising that he is “waging total war on our largest enemy”

Elon Musk, owner of X (formerly Twitter), amplified a campaign against the Anti-Defamation League that was spread by far-right figures and antisemites on the platform. After followers of these far-right personalities were instructed on fringe platforms to “juice” posts about banning the ADL, thousands of X Premium subscribers shared posts that included “#BanTheADL.” Far-right promoters of the hashtag campaign credited Musk with much of their success, praising him for his support and for threatening to sue the ADL.

  • Far-right users called for X to “#BanTheADL,” and X Premium subscribers posted the anti-ADL hashtag at least 37,471 times between September 4 and 13 on the platform

    • After Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt posted that he had spoken with X CEO Linda Yaccarino about hate on the platform, Keith Woods, an antisemitic YouTuber with connections to other far-right figures, promoted the hashtag “#BanTheADL,” which was amplified by other far-right users. Shortly after, Musk began interacting with Woods’ posts. [Media Matters, 9/1/23]
    • Between September 4 and 13, “#BantheADL” was posted on X at least 37,471 times by X Premium subscribers — according to a data analysis from Dewey Square Group (sourced via the Twitter API). Over 3,300 X Premium subscribers posted the hashtag, with roughly half of the users mentioning the hashtag in multiple posts. [Dewey Square Group, accessed 9/17/23]
    • According to the analysis, some X Premium subscribers posted the hashtag multiple times, including accounts with hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of followers. These accounts included right-wing blog Zero Hedge; cartoonist Scott Adams; Tim Young, who is a contributor for far-right nationalist outlet American Greatness; Gateway Pundit’s Elijah Schaffer; right-wing personality Jake Shields (a former UFC fighter); and Gab CEO and virulent antisemite Andrew Torba. [Dewey Square Group, accessed 9/17/23]
    • Dewey Square Group also found that several far-right accounts posted #BanTheADL in hundreds of posts. These accounts included Samuel Parker, a 2018 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate; an X account that describes itself as a “loyalist” of white supremacist Nick Fuentes; an account whose bio reads, “American Nationalist;” white supremacist and failed 2022 Republican U.S. Senate candidate Darrell McClanahan; and Fuentes follower and streamer Chief Trumpster. [Facebook, 1/25/22; WBEZ Chicago, 11/29/23; Twitter/X, accessed 9/21/23, accessed 9/21/23; ADL, 8/16/22; Media Matters, 7/20/23; Dewey Square Group, accessed 9/17/23
    • Fuentes credited Shields, who repeatedly tweeted the hashtag, as one of the people who “initiated” the campaign. Shields shared the #BantheADL hashtag numerous times while continuing to attack the organization, saying in one post that the organization “supports men in drag reading to kids #bantheADL” and comparing the group to the KKK in another. [Rumble, America First, 9/4/23; Twitter/X, 8/31/23, 9/1/23]
  • Far-right users encouraged their followers on fringe platforms to “juice” their tweets about #BantheADL, despite claiming the campaign was “organic”

    • In an X Space on September 4, Woods called the campaign “an organic uprising of X users.” [Twitter/X, 9/4/23
    • As the hashtag gained traction, Woods repeatedly posted about the campaign, telling his Telegram followers to “juice” his related tweets at least four different times. He also later used this campaign to ask his Telegram followers for donations saying, “I hope you like my content, if you would like even more of it consider supporting with a donation.” [Telegram, 9/2/23, 9/4/23, 9/4/23, 9/4/23, 9/4/23, 9/7/23]
    • Fuentes repeatedly promoted the “campaign” on Telegram, where he has over 54,000 subscribers, instructing his followers to “keep pushing #BanTheADL.” He urged his followers to “Post #BanTheADL on Twitter right now!” and to “JUICE THIS AND REPLY YES” regarding Musk’s tweet asking if he should run a poll about banning the ADL. [Telegram, 9/5/23, accessed 9/7/23 8/31/23, 9/2/23, 8/31/23]
  • Elon Musk helped spread the far-right attacks on the ADL and threatened to sue the group

    • Musk liked multiple anti-ADL posts from Woods, including Woods’ August 31 post that claimed that the ADL is “financially blackmailing social media companies into removing free speech” and included “#BanTheADL.” Woods subsequently bragged that “Elon Musk likes my call to #BanTheADL.” Musk also liked a September 3 post from Woods that claimed that the ADL “disregarded free speech and began pushing the most extreme censorship” and included the hashtag “#BanTheADL.” [Twitter/X, 8/31/23, 9/1/23, 9/3/23]
    • Musk directly responded to Woods’ anti-ADL posts, writing, “ADL has tried very hard to strangle X/Twitter” and calling the ADL “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’s replies came in response to Woods’ September 1 post claiming, “As soon as @elonmusk took over Twitter, the ADL got to work ensuring his promise of a free speech site would not come to fruition” and his September 3 tweet noting that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones had called the ADL “the most pro-Hitler organisation I've ever seen.” Musk also responded, “Interesting,” to Woods’ September 3 tweet claiming that “as soon as the ADL got an in to the big tech companies they disregarded free speech and began pushing extreme censorship.” [Twitter/X, 9/1/23, 9/3/23, 9/3/23]
    • Musk repeatedly targeted the ADL on X, including in a September 2 post that suggested running a poll on the idea of banning the organization from the platform. Musk proposed the poll in response to a post from a right-wing pundit that said, “The fact that #BanTheADL is trending shows how done people are with the ‘we’re labeling everything we don’t like as hateful/racist/dangerous/far-right’ BS.” [Twitter/X, 9/2/23]
    • Musk also repeatedly threatened to sue the ADL in posts on September 4, blaming the organization for X’s revenue loss. He responded to one post by writing, “If this continues, we will have no choice but to file a defamation suit against, ironically, the ‘Anti-Defamation’ League. If they lose the defamation suit, we will insist that they drop the the ‘anti’ part of their name, since obviously … 😂.” In another post, he said that he was considering suing the ADL for defamation to “clear our platform’s name on the matter of anti-Semitism,” adding, “oh the irony!” [Twitter/X, 9/4/23, 9/4/23]
  • Far-right figures celebrated the success of the anti-ADL campaign on X and amplification from Musk and conservative media figures

    • In an X Space on September 2, Woods discussed the success of the campaign thus far saying, “We got the acknowledgment from Elon Musk." He continued, “We got to over 130,000 tweets last time I saw.” [Twitter/X, 9/2/23]
    • Shields also credited Musk’s X with the success of the campaign, saying it is “so powerful, a few normal people can push an idea or topic to millions.” [Twitter/X, 9/2/23]
    • On Telegram, Fuentes celebrated Musk’s support of the hashtag, writing, “Elon Musk signals support for #BanTheADL W KEITH WOODS.” Fuentes claimed that Woods was “uniting the Right against the ADL” and later said that they are seeing “HUGE VICTORIES EVERY DAY,” adding, “whitepilled again” — a phrase used by far-right internet users to express hope. [Telegram, 9/1/23, 9/1/23, 9/5/23]
    • In a September 2 livestream, Fuentes said that it feels “very rewarding” to him that “this stuff is getting into the mainstream” because “everywhere you look, people are now talking about the Jews.” He went on to say that “things are tangibly changing when you look at the conservatives and they have to kowtow to us. They're putting out our hashtag.” [Angry White Men, 9/5/23
    • In another livestream on September 4, Fuentes celebrated the success of the campaign, noting the more mainstream right-wing media figures who had participated and saying that the most important audience is “specifically this audience of one. Elon Musk is paying attention.” During the livestream, he also said that he supports the campaign because “the real problem that we have here with ADL is that this is a Jewish group, and their primary concern is the interest of collective Jewry, or organized Jewry.” He went on to say that “the point is that a group like ADL is very influential” and that they “don’t want what’s best for Americans as a whole. They want what's best for organized Jewry.” [America First, 9/4/23, 9/4/23, 9/4/23
    • Torba celebrated the success of the campaign, at one point claiming, “We are so back.” Torba wrote, “In under five years we went from having every single one of our guys banned from the big tech platforms to the richest man in the world noticing, naming, and waging total war on our largest enemy while running one of those platforms. Let that sink in. Keep the faith. We are winning.” [Twitter/X, 9/4/23, 9/4/23]
    • On Gab, Torba claimed that “millions of people are waking up with the #BantheADL movement and Elon Musk bringing attention to their subversive behavior.” Torba also repeatedly attacked the ADL on X. [Gab, accessed 9/6/23; Twitter/X, 9/5/23
    • In his September 2 X Space, Woods also expressed excitement around the success of the campaign with more mainstream right-wing personalities, saying, “This campaign, this movement has taken off." He continued “We’ve got Matt Walsh, we’ve got Charlie Kirk, we’ve really got all of the big conservative influencers.” [Twitter/X, 9/2/239/1/23, 9/1/23, 9/1/23, 9/1/23]
    • Fuentes also commented on the success of the campaign among more mainstream conservatives. He said, “There was this push to force other conservative influencers to join in. Guys like Matt Walsh and Charlie Kirk and Michael Knowles, even a lot of unexpected people like Dinesh D'Souza, were all roped in to, or forced to weigh in, to this conversation, and they all supported the campaign to get ADL removed from Twitter. Or at the minimum to scrutinize the censorship that comes from activist groups like ADL.” [America First, 9/4/23]