Elon Musk, who bought Twitter to safeguard free speech on what he called a "digital town square," has imposed a controversial censorship policy targeting language used by people to question the legitimacy of the Israeli government or campaign for a different political order in Israeli-controlled lands.
The move comes in the wake of Musk himself being accused of anti-semitism.
On Friday, Musk announced that anyone using the slogan "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" will have their X account suspended, on the assumption that the phrase "necessarily impl[ies] genocide."
As I said earlier this week, “decolonization”, “from the river to the sea” and similar euphemisms necessarily imply genocide.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 17, 2023
Clear calls for extreme violence are against our terms of service and will result in suspension. https://t.co/1fCFo5Lezb
Musk, a self-proclaimed "free speech absolutist," also banned the term "decolonization" in the context of Israel.
More broadly, he said "similar euphemisms" will also result in suspensions, opening the door to the kind of arbitrary policing of speech that dominated the platform's pre-Musk era.
The move drew immediate praise from Jonathan Greenblatt, president of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In September, Musk threatened to file a defamation lawsuit against the ADL, saying the group had been "trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic."
As enormous pro-Palestine protests have erupted around the world, pro-Israel speakers have pointed to demonstrators' use of the slogan "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" as signifying demonstrators' desires to see the Jewish state erased.
Pro-Palestine protesters argue the phrase does not imply 'slaughter' of jews, pointing out that "‘From The River To The Sea’ Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means":
"...the belief that a “free Palestine” would necessarily lead to the mass annihilation of Jewish Israelis is rooted in deeply racist and Islamophobic assumptions about who the Palestinians are and what they want.
Rather than just lecture Palestinians and their supporters about how certain phrases make them feel, supporters of Israel should get more curious about what Palestinians themselves want. There isn’t a single answer (there never is), but assuming you already know is no way to work towards a just and lasting peace."
While many supported Musk's position, the ban of "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" prompted immediate push-back from X users. Some critics playfully paraphrased the forbidden words...
From the schwiver to the shmee. Elon, you will not ban me!!!!! 🤪— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) November 18, 2023
From the Pacific to the Atlantic down to the Caribbean Sea, the United States of America will be free https://t.co/P6FcDuyTrI— Anya Parampil (@anyaparampil) November 18, 2023
While others leveled accusations of inconsistency...
Ah, so calling for a single state from "the river to the sea" isn't actually bad, as long as it's an Israeli apartheid state and not a free and equal state for all of its people, gotcha. https://t.co/EO1bLVORfw— Nima Shirazi (@WideAsleepNima) November 19, 2023
Musk's move comes shortly after his controversial retweet of a post on X that said "Jewish communities" are pushing "hatred against whites." The post also accused Jewish people of supporting "hordes of minorities" entering Western countries.
"You have said the actual truth," Musk wrote in his retweet, sparking a swift wave of online backlash.
Musk later clarified that he did not intent to generalize the Jewish community, writing:
"...this does not extend to all Jewish communities, but it is also not just limited to ADL."
Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman voiced his support for Musk on Saturday as the X owner, writing on X that Musk "is not an antisemite."
"It is remarkable how quickly the world stands ready to attack Musk for his shoot from the hip commentary," Ackman wrote.
In his defense of Musk, Ackman reposted a video from conservative political pundit Ben Shapiro, who said Musk was unjustly being labeled as "some sort of crypto-Nazi."
"Very often, antisemitism becomes a political football," said Shapiro, who said many critics of Musk have failed to denounce antisemitism among anti-Israel protestors.
.@elonmusk is not an antisemite. I agree with @benshapiro’s assessment of the situation.— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) November 18, 2023
It is remarkable how quickly the world stands ready to attack Musk for his shoot from the hip commentary.
Musk is not perfect, but the world is a vastly better place because of him. https://t.co/YXcLGmugwX
Musk has also vehemently denied he is anti-semitic:
This past week, there were hundreds of bogus media stories claiming that I am antisemitic.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 19, 2023
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I wish only the best for humanity and a prosperous and exciting future for all.
Ackman concluded by praising the Tesla and SpaceX CEO. "Musk is not perfect, but the world is a vastly better place because of him," Ackman added.