Michael Shellenberger, a journalist and the leader of the organisation Public, has investigated the history of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). These groups are demanding censorship of X/Twitter and are claiming to do so as free citizens, not government agents.
However, Shellenberger has found that the US and other Western governments fund ISD, the UK government indirectly funds CCDH, and, for at least 40 years, ADL has spied on its enemies and shared intelligence with the US, Israel and other governments.
Shellenberger’s investigation suggests that the recent advertiser boycott of X/Twitter, led by ADL, may be an effort by governments to regain the ability to censor users on X that they had under Twitter before Musk’s takeover last November. Internal Twitter and Facebook messages show that representatives of the US and UK governments have demanded censorship of users in the past.
Public has debunked claims by ISD and CCDH of an increase in hate speech on X/Twitter and researchers have debunked ADL’s claims of rising antisemitism for years.
Shellenberger has not uncovered any documented proof of a conspiracy, but he suggests that an investigation by members of Congress and the British Parliament is merited given the evidence he has found. He also argues that ADL is exploiting the legacy of antisemitism and the Holocaust to justify unrelated censorial advocacy work, and that this is defamatory to Jews in general.
Groups leading the advertiser boycott of X/Twitter receive money from and have a history of spying for governments
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) are nongovernmental organizations, their leaders say. When they demand more censorship of online hate speech, as they are currently doing of X, formerly Twitter, those NGOs are doing it as free citizens and not, say, as government agents.
But the fact of the matter is that the US and other Western governments fund ISD, the UK government indirectly funds CCDH, and, for at least 40 years, ADL spied on its enemies and shared intelligence with the US, Israel and other governments. The reason all of this matters is that ADL’s advertiser boycott against X may be an effort by governments to regain the ability to censor users on X that they had under Twitter before Musk’s takeover last November.
Internal Twitter and Facebook messages show that representatives of the US government, including the White House, FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as the UK government, successfully demanded Facebook and Twitter censorship of their users over the last several years.
ADL is waging a very similar campaign against X/Twitter that it successfully waged against Facebook in 2020. In just three days, 800 companies, including $129 billion consumer products giant Unilever, withdrew tens of millions of dollars in ad revenue from Facebook until it agreed to ADL’s censorship demands. “The Facebook caved to far-left pressure groups and now allows them to silently dictate policy in exchange for ad money,” said Musk yesterday. “That is the relationship they’ve had with X/Twitter for many years. Presumably, they have that with all Western search or social media orgs.”
It’s possible that there has been an increase in hate on X since Elon Musk bought the company. With greater free speech policies comes the possibility of more offensive speech, including racist or antisemitic speech. Bigotry does exist, and it should be challenged.
But there is no good evidence of that. Public has debunked claims by ISD and CCDH of an increase. And researchers have repeatedly debunked ADL’s claims of rising antisemitism for years. In 2009, an Israeli filmmaker found that ADL could not support its claims of an antisemitism crisis. Wrote NPR in a review of the film, “When he presses ADL staffers for evidence to back up their claims of a sharp spike in North American anti-Semitism in 2007, they can offer only wan transgressions…”
Eleven years later, Liel Leibovitz noted in Tablet that ADL had, for a report, “counted hundreds of threatening calls to Jewish community centers made by a mentally troubled Israeli teenager. You had to read the report’s fine print to learn that the number of violent attacks against Jews that year had actually decreased by 47%.”
ADL, ISD, and CCDH have not presented any good evidence that offensive speech online directly causes “hate-motivated violence,” nor that censorship prevents it. Moreover, last week Public reviewed evidence suggesting that the best way to combat hate speech is through open and public debate, which allows people to change their minds, not censorship.
ADL’s main goal is supposed to be stopping “the defamation of the Jewish people,” but the organization is using the legacy of antisemitism and the Holocaust to justify unrelated censorial advocacy work. This is exploitative, and it is defamatory to say that Jews, in general, need and favor censorship. Many Jews on both the left and the right have argued that ADL does not represent their interests. By claiming to speak for all Jewish people while demanding highly unpopular policies, the ADL may be inadvertently driving antisemitism.
As troubling as these highly partisan ideological biases are, what’s most dangerous are the past and present ties between ADL, ISD, CCDH, and governments, particularly security and intelligence organizations, which we detail below. Neither ADL, ISD, nor CCDH have responded to multiple requests for more information or an interview.
While we have yet to uncover documented proof of a conspiracy by the intelligence and security agencies of the US and British governments to censor citizens, there is sufficient evidence to merit an investigation by members of Congress and the British Parliament.