X logo over signs that read "antisemitism equal racism"

Aundrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

X has an antisemitism problem

Elon Musk and Linda Yaccarino have allowed ads from major brands to run on white nationalist and pro-Hitler accounts

Update (10/4/23): This article has been updated with additional examples.

Under Elon Musk and new CEO Linda Yaccarino's leadership, X (formerly Twitter) has reinstated known white nationalists and antisemites on the platform and permitted advertisements from major companies to appear on pro-Hitler accounts. Musk has even engaged with some of the reinstated antisemitic accounts and amplified conspiracy theories that were used to push antisemitism.  

And now, Musk has engaged in a right-wing hate campaign against the Anti-Defamation League and indicated that he would likely sue the organization, claiming that he has “no choice” as the ADL “has been trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic.” Right-wing media figures have been encouraging him to fight the ADL and other ”activists" since he took over Twitter in October 2022.

  • X has failed to remove antisemitic content, and its algorithms recommend hateful content to users

    • X repeatedly told Media Matters that users who posted “Hitler was right” and urged a “final solution” for Jewish people didn’t break “our safety policies.” Media Matters ran a test of X’s system for reporting policy violations by flagging 28 posts that specifically claimed that “Hitler was right” or a “final solution” is needed for Jewish people. X’s reporting system responded in five instances by telling us that the posts don’t violate the platform’s policies, and at the time of the report, there had been zero instances of X telling Media Matters that a post with either of those phrases was a violation, though three posts were no longer available. [Media Matters, 9/13/23]
    • The Center for Countering Digital Hate reportedly identified hundreds of posts with racist and antisemitic rhetoric that X failed to moderate. CCDH identified 300 posts from across 100 accounts that contained hateful rhetoric, including claims that “Black people are intrinsically violent,” as well as “messages supporting Holocaust denial and notes promoting conspiracy theories related to Jews.” After reporting the posts, researchers found that 259 of them had not been taken down, “including one that referred to Adolf Hitler as ‘A hero who will help secure a future for white children!’” [Center for Countering Digital Hate, 9/13/23; CNBC, 9/13/23]
    • An August study from the ADL and the Tech Transparency Project found that X, along with Facebook and Instagram, recommended users antisemitic and hateful content. Researchers created six accounts for fictional people of different ages and genders and searched 50 terms on X, including conspiracy theories such as “flat earth” and “deep state,” and public figures including Bill Gates, George Soros, and Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West. Researchers reported that X then “recommended additional antisemitic and hateful content to all six accounts,” warning that the platform is “fomenting dangerous ideas as antisemitic incidents in the U.S. surge to historic levels.” [USA Today, 8/17/23; Anti-Defamation League, 8/16/23]
  • Under Musk’s leadership, X has reinstated the accounts of known white nationalists and antisemites

    • E. Michael Jones, a “radical traditionalist” Catholic, thanked Musk for reactivating his account on November 23, 2022, and has since used his platform to push dangerous antisemitic rhetoric. After being reinstated, Jones also used Twitter to usher his followers over to the far-right platform BitChute, where he posts antisemitic long-form content. [Media Matters, 12/2/22]
    • Anti-feminist personality Carl Benjamin, also known as Sargon of Akkad, has used his reinstated account to push white nationalist ideology and amplify the far-right message board 4chan to hundreds of thousands of followers. Benjamin, who previously said Jewish people “needed to drop the identity politics” and “I’m sorry about the Holocaust, but I don’t give a shit,” also thanked Musk after his account was reactivated. [Media Matters, 12/2/22]
    • Musk seemingly reversed white nationalist Stefan Molyneux’s suspension after users called for his reinstatement. Molyneux was reportedly banned from the platform in July 2020 for “spam and platform manipulation, specifically operating fake accounts.” He has also pushed white supremacy and eugenics. [Media Matters, 11/22/22]
    • White nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes was seemingly reinstated to Twitter on January 24, and then quickly re-suspended on January 25. Fuentes was originally banned from the platform in July 2021 for “repeated violations” of its rules. Musk's reinstatement of Fuentes, which came after another white nationalist petitioned Musk to let Fuentes back on the platform, was celebrated by far-right figures. Fuentes was re-suspended a day later after making several antisemitic comments during a Twitter Space event. [Media Matters, 11/22/22; Reuters, 1/25/23]
    • White nationalist and antisemite Patrick Howley was seemingly reinstated to Twitter on January 24. Prior to being banned in May 2022, Howley — a writer for far-right blog the National File — used his account to push bigotry and antisemitism. On his reinstated account, Howley praised Fuentes’ reinstatement and has pushed COVID-19 misinformation. [Media Matters, 11/22/22]
    • On May 29, Musk reportedly reinstated the account of former congressional candidate Paul Nehlen — who according to the Southern Poverty Law Center is “one of the most high-profile advocates of terrorism in America today.” Nehlen was suspended from Twitter in February 2018 after posting a racist meme about Meghan Markle. Prior to being suspended, Nehlen had increasingly used his Twitter account to peddle racism and antisemitism. While he has yet to post, Nehlen’s account was reinstated along with many of his previous racist, antisemitic, and anti-immigrant tweets. [Media Matters, 11/22/22; Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 9/5/23]
    • Young Pharaoh, an online commentator whose invitation to the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2021 was revoked after he pushed antisemitism, was reinstated in December 2022. [Media Matters, 12/21/22, 2/22/21]
    • Antisemitic YouTuber Keith Woods used his account, which was apparently reinstated under Musk, to target the ADL. Woods was a major driver of the far-right campaign to ban the ADL on X, and he attacked the organization for debunking the “Dancing Israelis” conspiracy theory. [Twitter/X, 9/11/23; Media Matters, 9/1/23, 9/11/23]
    • QAnon influencer Kanekoa used his reinstated X account to promote a conspiracy theory often cited as evidence that the U.S. government and/or Jewish people orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. For years, conspiracy theorists have baselessly claimed that the destruction of World Trade Center 7 was not caused by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and suggested that the U.S. government and/or Jewish people orchestrated the collapse instead. On September 10, Kanekoa — who was seemingly reinstated to the platform in December 2022 and has since been repeatedly boosted by Musk — posted an image of the north and south World Trade Center towers with text reading “never forget,” next to WTC building 7 with “forget” written over it. [Twitter/X, 9/10/23; Media Matters, 11/22/22, 3/20/23, 9/11/23]
  • X has allowed ads from major companies to appear on white nationalist and neo-Nazi accounts

    • In December 2022, The Washington Post reported that advertisements from dozens of major brands were appearing on white nationalist and extremist Twitter accounts. Technology reporter Faiz Siddiqui wrote, “Promoted tweets from Amazon, Snap, Uber and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, among others, appeared inadvertently on the pages of at least two white nationalists, Andrew Anglin and Patrick Casey.” [The Washington Post, 12/7/22]
    • The Center for Countering Digital Hate reported in February that it found multiple examples of advertisements from major brands appearing next to posts from reinstated accounts of white supremacists and one neo-Nazi. CCDH found an ad for Amazon Prime next to content from neo-Nazi Anglin, a Wendy’s ad next to a post from conspiracy theorist and white nationalist streamer Stew Peters, and an ad for streaming service Peacock next to content from white nationalist Tim Gionet (aka Baked Alaska). [The Center for Countering Digital Hate, 2/9/23]
    • Media Matters reviewed five different Twitter accounts run by people who have pushed Holocaust denial and found numerous advertisements from major companies while scrolling through their account pages. Notably, ads from The Wall Street Journal, Nokia, FanDuel, DataStax, and FinanceBuzz ran on the account of antisemitic writer E. Michael Jones, and ads for Thermo Fisher and Mailchimp ran on the account of British neo-Nazi writer Mark Collett. [Media Matters, 2/10/23]
    • In June, Gizmodo found ads for Disney, Microsoft, and the NBA “next to neo-Nazi propaganda” on the platform. When Gizmodo searched the platform for variations of the title of a 2017 antisemitic film, it found clips of the film alongside advertisements for online video games, Barron's newspaper, and the Telegraph, and other Twitter users that searched the title reportedly saw ads next to Disney, Microsoft, the NBA, and other major brands. [Gizmodo, 6/17/23]
    • In June, Media Matters also found that advertisements for major brands including Dish, Samsung, and The Wall Street Journal had appeared on the verified Twitter account of VDare, a leading white nationalist group. Tags on the VDare website have included “Immigrant Mass Murder,” “Anti-White Hate Crimes,” “White Guy Loses His Job,” “Birthright Citizenship Reform,” “Minority Occupation Government,” “Disgruntled Minority Massacre,” “Death Of White America,” “Black Serial Killers,” “War On Whites,” “Jewish Fear and Loathing of Donald Trump,” and “Immigrants And Disease.” [Media Matters, 6/22/23]
    • In July, Media Matters found that Twitter placed ads for major brands on the verified account of the National Socialist Network, a leading neo-Nazi group that engages in violence, has connections to terrorism, and uses Elon Musk’s platform to recruit new members. Ads for brands including Alibaba, Deloitte, Dick's Sporting Goods, Discovery, Honeywell, the National Women’s Soccer League, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Showtime, and USA Today were placed on the neo-Nazi group’s account. [Media Matters, 7/27/23]
    • In September, Media Matters found ads for major brands like the NFL, MLB, T-Mobile, and eBay alongside content pushing unhinged conspiracy theories about Jewish people orchestrating the 9/11 attacks. Antisemites have long alleged that nefarious Jewish forces are secretly behind world events, including the 9/11 attacks. [Media Matters, 9/11/23]
    • In September, Media Matters found ads for major brands like MLB, Bayer, Tyson Foods, and eBay on the X account of Stew Peters, who uses the social media platform to endorse the killings of politicians and LGBTQ advocates and to push antisemitism. Peters has repeatedly used his account to attack people for being Jewish and promote white nationalism, such as posting a celebratory picture of Hitler and writing: “Say what you will about Hitler, but people turned out for his rallies.” Of the Holocaust, Peters wrote, “The Covid bioweapon genocide is significantly WORSE than the holocaust in terms of worldwide reach and number of deaths.” [Media Matters, 9/12/23]
    • A September study from the ADL and the Tech Transparency Project found that X has placed ads alongside searches for hate groups. When researchers searched the names of hate groups on X — such as the neo-Nazi group Volksfront, the white supremacist organization Sonnenkrieg Division, the racist skinhead group Hammerskins, and the international neo-Nazi group Feuerkrieg Division — they found ads for the Children’s Hospital Association, Nasdaq, local Chevy Dealers, USA Football, the Chicago Cubs, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal. [Anti-Defamation League, 9/27/23]
    • After NFL executive Brian Rolapp praised X for “doing great work innovating to make the platform better,” Media Matters found ads for the NFL on prominent white nationalist accounts, including on Stew Peters’ X account near a post promoting a segment on his show that called for the public executions of NFL star Travis Kelce and pop star Taylor Swift. In a statement to NBC's Pro Football Talk, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said the “NFL unequivocally denounces any form of hate speech and has absolutely no association with these individuals or any group that promotes racism. As soon as this was brought to our attention, we immediately expressed our concerns to X to understand and rectify the issue.” [Media Matters, 9/27/23]
  • Musk himself has engaged with antisemitic accounts and amplified conspiracy theories that the far-right uses to push antisemitism

    • On Twitter, Musk amplified a fringe conspiracy theory about the fall of the cryptocurrency exchange company FTX, baselessly claiming that CEO Sam Bankman-Fried used FTX to launder money for Democratic midterm campaigns. As Musk promoted the conspiracy theory, users in far-right and fringe online spaces took the conspiracy theory a step further, pushing antisemitic claims and targeting Bankman-Fried with antisemitic harassment. [Media Matters, 11/14/22, 11/16/22]
    • Following the end of Title 42, Musk pushed antisemitic talking points known to be part of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which has been tied to mass shootings at synagogues and majority Black communities. In May, Musk repeatedly quote-tweeted and replied to tweets about the end of Title 42 and fearmongered about immigration. Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin celebrated Musk’s tweets, saying, “It is very powerful to have the richest man in the world — who people also say is a genius — coming in hot like this against the Jewish agenda.” [Media Matters, 5/19/23; Twitter/X, 5/18/23; Southern Poverty Law Center, 5/17/22]
    • Musk has attacked philanthropist and Holocaust survivor George Soros, a frequent target of antisemitism from right-wing media. In May, Musk compared Soros to Marvel character Magneto, claiming that Soros “hates humanity,” and even tweeting, “Does the public realize that Soros wants open borders? Literally not even checking to see if they're convicted serial killers on the run, which has happened more than once.” [Media Matters, 5/19/23; Twitter/X, 5/18/23]
    • After the Anti-Defamation League spoke with X’s new CEO Linda Yaccarino about hate speech, Musk repeatedly boosted anti-ADL posts and interacted with posts promoting a campaign to "#BanTheADL." As right-wing figures and far-right accounts promoted the campaign, Musk “liked” a post from Keith Woods — an antisemitic YouTuber Musk reinstated to the platform — that claimed the ADL is “financially blackmailing social media companies into removing free speech.” Musk also directly responded to other related posts from Woods, claiming the “ADL has tried very hard to strangle X/Twitter” and 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.” [Media Matters, 9/1/23]
    • Musk further targeted the ADL, claiming it has been “falsely accusing [the platform] & me of being anti-Semitic” and threatening to sue the organization. On September 4, Musk posted on X: “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!” [Media Matters, 9/1/23]
  • Musk ADL tweet claiming
  • Musk ADL tweet indicated
    • In September, Media Matters found that Musk has replied to at least 50 right-wing accounts a total of at least 282 times since rebranding Twitter to X on July 23. These accounts included QAnon supporters, bigots, and white nationalists, as well as accounts known to spread anti-LGBTQ content, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and COVID-19 conspiracy theories. [Media Matters, 9/27/23]
  • Right-wing figures encouraged Musk to take on “activists,” including the ADL, when he first purchased Twitter, and then praised him when he did

    • When Musk offered to buy Twitter in April 2022, then-Fox host Tucker Carlson (who has since been fired from the network) championed Musk for promoting free speech and countering organizations like the ADL and Media Matters, which aim to hold him accountable. Carlson also described Musk's potential takeover as a “threat” to the “whole nonprofit universe that exists and thrives and becomes rich supporting them through censorship and propaganda.” [CNBC, 4/14/22, Media Matters, 4/14/22]
    • On Twitter, Musk affirmed right-wing influencer Ian Miles Cheong's suggestion that “it’s time to stop appeasing the activists because they will stop at nothing to hurt Twitter regardless of what you do.” [Twitter/X, 11/4/22]
    • On Twitter, Judicial Watch's Tom Fitton pondered “if @ElonMusk's @Twitter has tortious interference claims against the Left activist groups which are causing damaging advertiser boycotts of the platform?" Musk responded to the post, saying, “We do.” [Twitter/X, 11/7/22]
    • When Musk suspended journalists who critically reported on him from Twitter, right-wing media jumped to his defense and even lauded the move. Anti-LGBTQ bigot Matt Walsh said that “The only appropriate response to this spectacle is simply to laugh at these clowns,” and Newsmax and OAN contributor Kyle Becker said “Fuck ’em.” [Media Matters, 12/16/22; Twitter/X, 12/16/22, 12/16/22]
    • After thousands of X Premium subscribers shared posts promoting a campaign to “#BanTheADL,” far-right figures credited Musk with much of the campaign’s success, praising him for his support and for threatening to sue the ADL. Virulent antisemite Andrew Torba and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes were among those who 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.” [Media Matters, 9/26/23]