Free Speech

'Free Speech Absolutist' Elon Musk Threatens Anti-Defamation League With Defamation Lawsuit

Plus: The doubling of the deficit, young Americans souring on college, and more...


'Free speech absolutist' Elon Musk is threatening to sue the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The group has allegedly tried to "kill" the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, with false accusations of antisemitism and advertiser boycotts, according to Musk. In a series of posts, the billionaire said that the ADL's pressure campaign on advertisers to leave X over its content moderation policies was primarily responsible for a 60 percent drop in the site's U.S. ad revenue.

"If this continues, we will have no choice but to file a defamation suit against, ironically, the 'Anti-Defamation' League," said Musk. "If they lose the defamation suit, we will insist that they drop [sic] the 'anti' part of their name."

In a subsequent post, Musk suggested that the ADL was responsible for destroying $22 billion of Twitter's value.

The dispute between the ADL and X is not new.

Ever since Musk took over the platform late last year, the civil rights organization has accused the company of allowing hateful and antisemitic speech to proliferate through overly lax content moderation policies and practices.

The ADL was one of the groups reporting a dramatic rise in the use of racist and homophobic slurs on Twitter after Musk's acquisition. It also complained that the company was now less responsive to its requests to remove content.

Back in December 2022, Reason's Jacob Sullum argued that the rise in hate speech reported by the ADL and others was being exaggerated. The few thousand additional tweets containing racist and antisemitic slurs were still a tiny fraction of the content on the site.

Nevertheless, the ADL has continued to pressure X to be more aggressive in taking down what it deems hateful content. In a report published last month, the ADL even accused the social media site of running a "hate machine" for suggesting people follow accounts that have tweeted antisemitic content and memes.

The ADL, alongside other civil rights groups, had participated in other pressure campaigns aimed at getting advertisers to leave Facebook over its (supposedly) lax content moderation. In recent years, critics of the ADL also have accused it of being overly partisan and using dodgy methodology to inflate the number of antisemitic incidents it tracks.

In July, X sued the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate over what it claims were baseless accusations of failing to police hate speech.

Musk surely has some cause to dispute a lot of the claims the ADL is making about X. His company is within its rights to decline the group's content moderation demands. Nevertheless, the ADL is also well within its rights to argue Musk is running a "hate machine" and lobbying advertisers to take their business elsewhere. By threatening legal action against the group, Musk is ceding whatever moral high ground he may have had as a defender of free speech.

Instead, he's suggesting he might use the court system to bully the group into silencing their criticism of his company. That's hardly the action of a "free speech absolutist."


The budget deficit is set to double this year, The Washington Post reports:

After the government's record spending in 2020 and 2021 to combat the impact of covid-19, the deficit dropped by the greatest amount ever in 2022, falling from close to $3 trillion to roughly $1 trillion. But rather than continue to fall to its pre-pandemic levels, the deficit then shot upward. Budget experts now project that it will probably rise to about $2 trillion for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that advocates for lower deficits.

This explosion in debt is coming despite President Joe Biden's repeated claims that he's actually cutting the federal government's fiscal deficit.


Americans are increasingly saying "skool suks." Recent public opinion polls show that young Americans' attitudes toward college are turning increasingly negative, according to The New York Times:

The percentage of young adults who said that a college degree is very important fell to 41 percent from 74 percent. Only about a third of Americans now say they have a lot of confidence in higher education. Among young Americans in Generation Z, 45 percent say that a high school diploma is all you need today to "ensure financial security." And in contrast to the college-focused parents of a decade ago, now almost half of American parents say they'd prefer that their children not enroll in a four-year college.

Perhaps colleges being some of the last institutions to cling to insane COVID restrictions is playing a role:


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