April 21, 2024


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with X owner Elon Musk on Monday, where he is widely expected to confront Musk on his social media platform’s handling of antisemitism.

The visit in California, ahead of Netanyahu’s meetings in New York with world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, could give Musk an opportunity to deflect claims that X — formerly known as Twitter — has allowed hate speech to proliferate on the platform.

But Netanyahu, one of the world’s most prominent Jewish leaders who has styled himself as a vocal critic of antisemitism, may pressure Musk to do more.

“If Elon Musk is the owner of Twitter, and Twitter is also a platform where antisemitic content is shared, I am sure the prime minister will also bring up in the meeting the need for Elon Musk to ensure that Twitter stops being an arena for antisemitic content,” said Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, in an interview Monday with Israel’s Army Radio ahead of the meeting.

Netanyahu and Musk are expected to participate in a live conversation to be streamed on X at 12:15 pm ET.

Since purchasing the company last year, Musk has laid off more than 80% of X’s staff, including many on its trust and safety teams charged with designing and enforcing the platform’s content rules.

In addition to provoking claims he has weakened X’s enforcement against hate speech, Musk has stoked tensions with civil society groups and in particular the Anti-Defamation League, which he has threatened to sue over its critiques about X. In August, X sued another hate speech watchdog group, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, over the nonprofit’s research showing that X has failed to remove content that violates its own rules.

Netanyahu and Musk will also discuss artificial intelligence, Netanyahu said in remarks to the press before his departure from Israel, adding that he plans to ask Musk to invest in Israel’s AI industry. The discussion comes a week after Musk traveled to Washington and met with more than 60 US senators, along with other tech CEOs and civil society leaders, to address the risks and benefits of AI.

Praising him as “the current leader of the most dramatic development in the new age and perhaps in general,” Netanyahu said in his remarks that Musk “is, to a large degree, paving the way that will change the face of humanity and also the face of the State of Israel.”

While Musk this year announced the creation of a new AI company, xAI, whose goal is to “understand the true nature of the universe,” it is eclipsed by industry giants including Google, OpenAI, IBM and other established businesses with access to massive amounts of cloud computing infrastructure and processing hardware, as well as armies of AI talent.

Still, Netanyahu’s remarks highlight how, for his administration, the meeting with Musk carries huge political and economic stakes and the opportunity to brand Israel as a leader in the fast-growing AI sector.

In the Army Radio interview, Erdan foreshadowed the possible tensions between Musk and Netanyahu over antisemitic content on X.

“Does meeting with Elon Musk mean he identifies with everything and every position of Elon Musk? Of course not, just like when he meets with Erdogan he doesn’t agree with everything Erdogan says or does,” Erdan said, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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