Netanyahu Asks Elon Musk to 'Roll Back' Antisemitism on X During Talk at San Jose Tesla Plant

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Elon Musk held a talk at the Tesla plant in San Jose, California, on September 18, where they discussed free speech, hate speech, and technology.

Amid a discussion on free speech during the talk, Netanyahu asked Musk to “stop” and “roll back” antisemitism and hate on the X platform.

“I know your commitment to free speech, but I also know your opposition to antisemitism. You’ve spoken about it, tweeted about it. And all I can say is, I hope you find, within the confines of the First Amendment, the ability to stop not only antisemitism, or roll it back as best you can, but any collective hatred of people. I know you’re committed to that and I hope you succeed. And it’s not an easy task, but I encourage you and urge you to find a balance,” Netanyahu said.

Elon responded that he was “sort of against attacking any group,” that he was “for that which furthers civilization and that which ultimately leads us to become a space-faring civilization,” and that he was “against really anything that promotes hate and conflict.”

The pair also discussed artificial intelligence (AI) and other technology. Credit: Benjamin Netanyahu via Storyful

Video transcript

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I know-- I know your commitment to free speech. I respect that because I think it's an integral-- it's the foundational thing of democracies, really. But I also know your opposition to anti-Semitism. You've spoken about it, tweeted about it. And all I can say is I hope you find within the confines of the First Amendment the ability to stop not only anti-Semitism or roll it back as best you can but any collective hatred of a people that, you know, anti-Semitism represents, and I know you're committed to that.

I hope you succeed in it. It's not an easy task, but I encourage you and urge you to find a balance. It's a tough one.

ELON MUSK: Yeah, I mean, I think generally-- I mean, I'm sort of against attacking any group. You know, it doesn't matter who it is. You know, this is-- I'm in favor of that which furthers civilization and which ultimately leads us to become a spacefaring civilization and where we understand the nature of the universe. So we can't do that if there's a lot of infighting, you know, and hatred and negativity.

So, you know, obviously I'm against anti-Semitism. I'm against anti, really, anything that is-- you know, that promotes hate and conflict, and I'm in favor of that which helps build society and take us to a better future for humanity collectively.

Now, this-- sometimes is this like-- and I think one can actually argue that, really, everyone should have this view. All it requires is long-term thinking. And if you're long-term thinking, you say, like, OK, well-- so basically you can say, like, even if-- and hypothetically, if someone is, say, completely self-centered, well, it's like, well, can you-- how would you feel if you didn't have civilization? It's very easy to figure that out. Just go into the forest with nothing and see how long you want to live there. Just watch an episode of "Naked and Afraid" and--

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: See how long you live. You may die very quickly.

ELON MUSK: Yeah, I know. Exactly. So it's like civilization turns out it's pretty nice, actually, for-- you know, we may quibble about civilization, but it's easy to experience not civilization by just going into someplace where there are no people and seeing, you know, what it's like, and you very quickly come back to civilization, unless you're Ted Kaczynski or something, you know? So-- [LAUGHS] He liked living in the forest.

So yeah, so the-- you know, now, free speech does, at times, mean that somebody-- someone you don't like is saying something you don't like. If you don't have that, then it's not-- it's not free speech. Now, that doesn't mean some sort of negativity has to-- should be pushed upon people because for the X platform, unless it's interesting, entertaining, engaging, then we will lose users. People will want to not use our system if they find it to be unpleasant.

Our overarching goal for the X platform is to maximize unregretted user time. So if you spend half an hour on X platform, did you learn a lot? Did you-- were you entertained? Did you perhaps laugh a little bit?

In fact, I find it to be the best source of humor. I laugh more on stuff that I read on X than everything else combined. So, you know, I think that's a good thing.

But it's also important to bear in mind that there are 500 million-- 550 million monthly users, now going to maybe 600 million monthly users. And, you know, at any given day, there's on the order of 100 to 200 million posts to the system. There's a lot of-- this is a lot of material.

So in amongst the 100 or 200 million-- and I'm excluding retweets or reposts, as I say. New wording. [LAUGHS] You know, some of those are going to be bad. It's impossible to say-- and you can't police it in advance, but you can say after the fact, oh, it's getting reported as hate speech. OK, well, we're going to deamplify-- we're not going to promote hate speech. So because we think probably people-- that's not what people want to hear, you know?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, I think the other thing is that it doesn't stop you from coming out as you have and as I do on every possible forum and condemn anti-Semitism, you know? It's just this collective hatred of a people. You say they have to be banished. They don't have a right to exist. They don't have a right to a state of their own and so on.

And the vile things that are said-- I don't care if they come from the hard left or from the hard right, white supremacist or, I don't know, ultra progressives. For me, that's something that I condemn, and I think that it's important to come out. And that's quite a separate question. The condemnation is quite separate from the question of access.

The one access idea that I have-- and I don't even know if it's technically possible is to prevent the use of, you know, bots, armies of bots, to replicate and amplify. So at least if you get a crazy guy and a hateful guy, let him be speaking for one voice rather than arming, you know, an army of-- an army of fake millions to do this.

ELON MUSK: Absolutely.