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Elon Musk lashed out in a series of tweets over the weekend—a fairly standard occurrence for the billionaire owner of Twitter—blaming the Anti-Defamation League for tanking Twitter’s ad revenue by 60 percent and threatening to sue the organization. The ADL, a civil rights group that counters antisemitism, has alongside other groups called on Twitter to enforce its policies against hate speech as well as reporting an uptick in antisemitic posts immediately after Musk's takeover last year.
"Our 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 said in a tweet on Monday, which in the U.S. was the federal Labor Day holiday. He said that, at minimum, he holds the ADL responsible for "10% of the value destruction," or roughly $4 billion. Since Musk paid $44 billion for Twitter last year, it's been estimated that it lost two-thirds of its value. Musk's tweet seems to imply that the platform has now lost nearly all of its value. "If this continues, we will have no choice but to file a defamation suit against, ironically, the “Anti-Defamation” League," he said in another tweet. Musk's outburst followed a wave of antisemitic sentiment on Twitter after the ADL’s CEO Jonah Greenblatt tweeted on Thursday about a "frank + productive conversation" with Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino on how the site can address hate speech. #BantheADL became a trending topic on Twitter, a campaign that was accompanied by an outpouring of antisemitic posts, Rolling Stone reported. Musk even engaged with a YouTuber who has links to figures on the far-right and who claimed in a tweet that the ADL was "financially blackmailing" social media companies into stifling free speech. "ADL has tried very hard to strangle X/Twitter," Musk tweeted in a reply on Friday.
On Saturday, Musk tweeted, “Perhaps we should run a poll on this?” referring to the #BantheADL campaign.Musk continued to stoke conspiracies with his tweets. For example, he lent credence to a tweet by a right-wing influencer that asked how many antisemitic Twitter accounts are really "funded/operated by the [Democratic National Committee]?""It is impossible to tell with unverified accounts whether you’re dealing with a small or large number of real people, as sophisticated bots are virtually indistinguishable from humans. With unverified accounts, there is also no way to tell if the organization complaining was somehow complicit in creating the very thing they complain about!" Musk replied.It's unclear if Musk will actually follow through on his threat of a lawsuit. He often says things and then doesn't do them. It's worth noting, though, that Twitter is currently suing the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate, which tracks hate speech on social media. Twitter claimed in its lawsuit that the CCDH is funded "by unknown organizations, individuals and potentially even foreign governments with ties to legacy media companies," but that it cannot name them. Twitter's downfall has largely been attributed to advertisers fleeing the platform due to Musk's own actions, which have included amplifying conspiracy theories, reinstating far-right accounts, threatening lawsuits, and much more. In November of 2022, just weeks after Musk took over, Media Matters for America reported that Twitter had lost half of its top 100 advertisers, representing billions of dollars in revenue, largely due to Musk's "brand unsafe" actions.