Culture Wars/Current Controversies

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

‘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.”
If this continues, we will have no choice but to file a defamation suit against, ironically, the “Anti-Defamation” League.

If they lose the defamation suit, we will insist that they drop the the “anti” part of their name, since obviously … ????

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 4, 2023

In a subsequent post, Musk suggested that the ADL was responsible for destroying $22 billion of Twitter’s value.
Based on what we’ve heard from advertisers, ADL seems to be responsible for most of our revenue loss.

Giving them maximum benefit of the doubt, I don’t see any scenario where they’re responsible for less than 10% of the value destruction, so ~$4 billion.

Document discovery of…

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 4, 2023

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.
Explosive piece in the Washington Post (by @JStein_WaPo assisted by @BudgetHawks) showing that the budget deficit is set to 𝒅𝒐𝒖𝒃𝒍𝒆 to $2 trillion this year.

This is basically unprecedented in U.S. history during relative peace and prosperity.🧵

— Brian Riedl 🧀 🇺🇦 (@Brian_Riedl) September 4, 2023

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:
At the @UMich, students testing covid positive must leave their dorms for 5 days & live in the community. A hotel room or a relative’s house is ok.

This cruel policy is designed to spread covid from the university into the wild. It won’t stop covid from spreading @umich.

— Jay Bhattacharya (@DrJBhattacharya) September 3, 2023


  • According to technology journalist Tim Lee’s parsing of data from the driverless taxi services of Waymo and Cruise, driverless cars might already be safer than human-operated motor vehicles.
  • National Review on how the New Deal harmed black Americans.
  • France is planning on banning all disposable vapes as part of an “anti-smoking” plan. Good luck with that!
  • Former Democratic governor of New Mexico and 2008 presidential candidate Bill Richardson has died.
  • Excavations at some Canadian residential schools are failing to turn up human remains in what were reported to be mass graves.
  • Attendees are finally leaving Burning Man after a sudden storm made travel out of the desert festival temporarily impossible.
Christian Britschgi is a reporter at Reason who covers property rights, housing policy, transportation policy, and regulation. His writing has appeared in The American ConservativeThe College Fix, The Lens,, The Orange County Registerthe Daily News, the New York PostJacobite, and The Wall Street Journal. His reporting has been cited by The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Atlanticand the U.S Congress’ Joint Economic Committee.    

His 2020 essay on the portrayal of developers in film (“Why Does Hollywood Hate Real Estate Developers?“) won the Los Angeles Press Club’s annual journalism award for Arts/Culture Feature over 1,000 words.

He was a 2020 Novak Journalism Fellow at The Fund for American Studies. His project for the fellowship “Coronavirus and Leviathan” focused on government overreach during the pandemic and local resistance efforts to that overreach.

Christian graduated from Portland State University with a degree in political science in 2016. He worked briefly in public relations before moving into journalism by way of an internship at Reason’s D.C. office.


Reason is the magazine of “free minds and free markets,” offering a refreshing alternative to the left-wing and right-wing echo chambers for independent-minded readers who love liberty.

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