February 23, 2024

New York

X owner Elon Musk is threatening to sue the Anti-Defamation League for defamation, claiming that the nonprofit organization’s statements about rising hate speech on the social media platform have torpedoed X’s advertising revenue.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Musk said US advertising revenue is “still down 60%, primarily due to pressure on advertisers by @ADL (that’s what advertisers tell us), so they almost succeeded in killing X/Twitter!”

Musk also claimed that since he took over the platform in October 2022, the ADL “has been trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic.”

“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 said.

The ADL said as a matter of policy it does not comment on legal threats. But the organization noted it recently met with X leadership, including CEO Linda Yaccarino, who Musk hired to help revive ad revenue. Yaccarino thanked ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt following the meeting last week, saying in a post on X, “A strong and productive partnership is built on good intentions and candor.”

Meanwhile, Musk, the platform’s owner, has recently liked and engaged with a series of posts criticizing the organization.

A #BanTheADL campaign has spread on X, and the ADL accused Musk of “lifting” the campaign.

“ADL is unsurprised yet undeterred that antisemites, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists and other trolls have launched a coordinated attack on our organization. This type of thing is nothing new,” an ADL spokesperson said.

The ADL and other similar organizations, including the Center for Countering Digital Hate, have found that the volume of hate speech on the website has grown dramatically under Musk’s stewardship.

In one instance, the CCDH found the daily use of the n-word under Musk is triple the 2022 average and the use of slurs against gay men and trans persons are up 58% and 62%, respectively. The ADL said in a separate report that its data shows “both an increase in antisemitic content on the platform and a decrease in the moderation of antisemitic posts.”

Musk called the reports in May by the two watchdog groups “utterly false,” claiming that “hate speech impressions,” or the number of times a tweet containing hate speech has been viewed, “continue to decline” since his early days of owning the company when the platform saw a spike in hate speech designed to test Musk’s tolerance.

Still, two brands last month paused their ad spending on X after their advertisements ran alongside an account promoting Nazism. X suspended the account after the issue was flagged and said ad impressions on the page were minimal.

Last month, Musk sued the CCDH, accusing the nonprofit group of deliberately trying to drive advertisers away from the platform by publishing reports critical of the platform’s response to hateful content.

It specifically claims CCDH violated the platform’s terms of service, and federal hacking laws, by scraping data from the company’s platform and by encouraging an unnamed individual to improperly collect information about Twitter that it had provided to a third-party brand monitoring provider.

In response, CCDH’s CEO Imran Ahmed previously told CNN that much of the lawsuit, particularly its claim about the unnamed individual, “sounds a bit like a conspiracy theory to me.”

“The truth is that he’s [Elon Musk] been casting around for a reason to blame us for his own failings as a CEO,” Ahmed said, “because we all know that when he took over, he put up the bat signal to racists and misogynists, to homophobes, to antisemites, saying ‘Twitter is now a free-speech platform.’ … And now he’s surprised when people are able to quantify that there has been a resulting increase in hate and disinformation.”


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