Sep 18, 2023 - World

Israel's Netanyahu asks Elon Musk to combat antisemitism on X

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Elon Musk.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Elon Musk. Photo: Handout/Israel's GPO

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday asked Elon Musk, the owner of X, formerly known as Twitter, to take steps to curb antisemitism on the platform.

Why it matters: Musk earlier this month threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), accusing the nonprofit, without evidence, of "trying to kill" X after the group reported a spike in hate speech on the platform following the reinstatement of banned accounts.

  • Musk has since issued a slew of posts critical of the ADL and engaged with those who have expressed antisemitic views.

Driving the news: Netanyahu met Musk at the Tesla factory in San Jose, California, and later held an hour-long conversation with him, which was broadcast live on X.

  • Netanyahu praised Musk for what he called his support for free speech and said he knows the X owner is opposed to antisemitism.

What they're saying: "I hope you find, within the confines of the First Amendment, the ability to stop antisemitism or roll it back as best you can, but also any collective hatred of a people like the one antisemitism represents. I urge and encourage you to find the balance," Netanyahu said.

  • Musk replied, saying that he is against attacking any group. "I am against antisemitism and against anything that promotes hatred and conflict," he said.
  • Still, Musk stressed that "free speech at times means that someone you don't like says something you don't like."
  • He added that there are between 100 to 200 million posts a day on X and "some of those are going to be bad."
  • Netanyahu then said again that this shouldn't stop Musk from coming out in condemning antisemitism "as you have."
  • "I don't care if it is from the hard right of the hard left ... it is important to condemn it," he said.

Netanyahu told Musk that one way to fight antisemitism is by preventing the use of bots to amplify hate speech on X.

  • Musk said he is considering asking people to pay a small amount of money to use X because it will make it harder to use an army of bots on the platform.

Zoom out: Netanyahu repeatedly praised Musk throughout the conversation, which also focused on artificial intelligence.

  • He called Musk "the Edison of our time" and jokingly called him the unofficial president of the U.S.

The big picture: Musk mentioned the protest outside the Tesla building against the Israeli government's judicial overhaul and told Netanyahu that the internal opposition within Tesla to the meeting between the two of them was stronger than anything he has experienced.

  • Netanyahu told Musk that most people don't know what they are protesting against and claimed they were being manipulated.
  • He said he is trying to get a broad consensus for "a minor correction" in the way judges are appointed. He added that will be his focus when he gets back to Israel next week.
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