After facing allegations of antisemitism, Elon Musk rolled out a new rule that X, formerly known as Twitter, would suspend accounts that used the terms “decolonization” and “from the river to the sea,” as the billionaire considers them “clear calls for extreme violence” that violate the social media giant’s terms of service.
Ben Shapiro has made a compelling case that Musk is more rhetorically clumsy than an actual antisemite, and the multibillionaire is correct that antisemitism is a crisis currently corroding the platform he spent a cool $44 billion to purchase. But Musk’s solution is misguided, perhaps because he doesn’t understand why antisemitism has exploded on the site.
Like physicians, founders must first do no harm. In the case of X, that means that before censoring a single word on the site, let alone creating new categories of banned speech, Musk must stop the platform’s active promotion of the worst antisemites.
Since Hamas’s attack on Israel, a self-described “American Conservative Marxist-Leninist” named Jackson Hinkle has garnered nearly 2 million new followers, becoming the fourth most influential user on the platform according to Notus, which tracks which accounts achieve the highest engagement. How exactly has Hinkle rivaled Musk’s own influence? By sharing overtly pro-Palestinian and pro-Hamas propaganda, including false claims that U.S. Marines landed in Israel and presenting media from the Syrian civil war as footage from Gaza. Other top accounts, according to Notus, are Quds News Network and Censored Men, fellow antisemitic propagandists.
The problem is not that users are allowed to lie but rather that X’s algorithm promotes lies, both in the curated “For You” feeds and the comment section, which prioritizes paying propagandists over anyone who hasn’t subscribed for a premium blue checkmark. The BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh has reported extensively on the surge of antisemitic disinformation, but here is just one example.
However execrable calls to “decolonize” Israel are — and thus to purge all the Jews from their only homeland, “from the river to the sea” — Musk does not have to ban them. At minimum, however, the platform must stop promoting the most rabid antisemitism and thus allowing them to profit financially from the engagement.