Twitter was a cesspool of antisemitic hatred and vitriol long before Elon Musk took over. But now, under his leadership, the newly renamed platform, X, has become an unrestrained free-for-all against Jews, where neo-Nazis and white extremists seemingly run rampant and antisemitism is widespread.

Research shows that since the company’s takeover by Musk in October 2022, the volume of English-language antisemitic tweets has more than doubled.

Just look at the events of the past week and Musk’s involvement in a coordinated campaign by white nationalists and far-right extremists on X to #BantheADL, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), one of the most prominent global organizations combating antisemitism and racial hatred.

On Saturday, Musk asked his 155 million followers whether he should run a poll to ban the group, in response to what he perceived was an attempt by ADL to censor users on his platform and pressure companies to stop advertising.

Up to that point, the #BantheADL campaign was hardly noticeable, relegated mostly to a small fringe of extremists. But Musk got involved when he “liked” a tweet by Keith Woods, an Irish white nationalist and self-proclaimed “raging anti-semite,” who was one of the lead initiators of the campaign.

Musk then further engaged with Woods, directly replying to him that “ADL has tried very hard to strangle X/Twitter” and posting a flood of tweets on his perceived grievances with ADL. In doing so, the hashtag immediately become the top trending topic on X.

Like clockwork, it opened the floodgates of posts on X, featuring antisemitic tropes, stereotypes, caricatures and neo-Nazi conspiracies of global Jewish domination, Zionist attempts to disrupt established societies and immediate threats posed to “white people.”

For the record, the ADL is not beyond reproach; a number of its policies are certainly worthy of question. However, the ADL has long been used by the far-right as some kind of Jewish bogeyman. Ultimately, the ADL is just a figurehead for the neo-Nazis in their ultimate goal to eliminate and cancel Jews altogether.

Had Musk not elevated the “Ban the ADL” campaign, it is questionable whether anyone would have really noticed it. However, in putting himself at the center of the campaign, he sent it into antisemitic orbit, bringing out of the woodwork many far-right, neo-Nazi, conspiracy theorist crackpots.

Now, Musk has threatened to sue the ADL for defamation — quite ironic for someone who professes to be a “free speech absolutist.” In announcing his intent to take legal action, Musk has claimed that since his acquisition of Twitter, the ADL “has been trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic” and that as a result, “US advertising revenue is still down 60%, primarily due to pressure on advertisers by ADL.” Musk has valued the alleged loss at roughly $22 billion.

However, one can’t help but wonder, is Musk using ADL as a scapegoat to cover for his own business woes? According to some reports, X was already heavily laden in debt, and with the U.S. experiencing an economic slowdown advertisers tend to pull back. Musk has also gone on a firing spree after taking over, with a lower expenditure meaning the platform requires less revenue to meet costs.

But by opening up X as a megaphone for extremists pushing hateful material, it is plausible that advertisers have decided they just no longer wish to be associated with the platform. Only last month, two leading brands suspended advertising on X after their ads appeared next to pro-Nazi content.

Perhaps instead of blaming ADL for all his company’s ills and using an identifiably Jewish organization as a scapegoat, Musk should focus on getting back to business basics.

In the wake of the ADL fall-out, Musk reiterated “To be super clear, I’m pro free speech, but against anti-Semitism of any kind.” Musk might not be an antisemite. But he is elevating and empowering antisemites by repeatedly engaging with white extremists with antisemitism already at record highs in the U.S. If history has taught us anything, it is that unchecked hatred and incitement against Jews has real-life implications and leads directly to violence.

If Musk truly wants to maintain X as a free speech platform and demonstrate he is against antisemitism, he needs to stop engaging with antisemites.

Arsen Ostrovsky is a human rights attorney and CEO of The International Legal Forum, a global network of lawyers combating antisemitism. You can follow him on Twitter at: @Ostrov_A.

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