Elon Musk threatens to sue anti-defamation group for falling revenue

Social media platform owner has received criticism for liking posts with the hashtag 'BanTheADL'

Billionaire Elon Musk has previously been accused of fuelling anti-Semitic tropes. AFP
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Elon Musk, the owner of social media platform X, formerly Twitter, said the site is considering suing the Anti-Defamation League over accusations of anti-Semitism, which he blames for falling revenue.

Mr Musk late on Monday accused the US-based Jewish organisation of making unfounded complaints against him and X that have scared away advertisers.

“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!” Mr Musk wrote on X on Monday.

“Based on what we've heard from advertisers, ADL seems to be responsible for most of our revenue loss.”

He added that the group “would potentially be on the hook for destroying half the value of the company, so roughly $22 billion”.

“Advertisers avoid controversy, so all that is needed for ADL to crush our US and European ad revenue is to make unfounded accusations,” he wrote in a long thread that started with a clarification that he favours free speech but is “against anti-Semitism of any kind”.

In an email to AFP, the ADL declined to comment on Mr Musk's legal threats but responded to the “BanTheADL” hashtag that has been trending on the website.

Mr Musk, who bought Twitter last year and rebranded it as X, has come under fire for liking posts with the hashtag.

“ADL is unsurprised yet undeterred that anti-Semites, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists and other trolls have launched a co-ordinated attack on our organisation,” the email said.

“This type of thing is nothing new.”

The ADL added that the campaign came after the group participated in a civil rights march marking the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's “I have a dream” speech.

The organisation has for years accused the social media site of amplifying anti-Semitic hate speech and recently met top executives at X.

In a 2016 report, the group said anti-Semitic attacks against journalists had exploded on Twitter, “thanks to the rhetoric in the 2016 presidential campaign”.

It accused the social network of failing to control its “trolling problem”.

Billionaire Mr Musk has also previously been accused of fuelling anti-Semitic tropes, including attacks against Jewish philanthropist George Soros.

According to the ADL and the Centre for Countering Digital Hate, problematic and racist speech has sharply risen on X since Mr Musk completed his $44 billion takeover in October.

Since then, the Tesla boss has fired thousands of the platform's employees, cut content moderation and reinstated former president Donald Trump's account.

Last month, Mr Musk sued the CCDH, accusing it of a smear campaign that damaged the social network's relationship with advertisers.

Updated: September 05, 2023, 5:40 PM