I manage a little X account called @TheMossadIL. It’s a satirical account that portrays the all-powerful Israeli Mossad Intelligence agency, capable of executing outlandish feats like space lasers, sharks with lasers, dolphins with lasers, essentially anything involving lasers. This account has gained popularity by poking fun at individuals who attribute all of their misfortunes to the Mossad, from a missing shoe to sex gum.
Regrettably, due to Elon Musk’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of free speech, X has recently evolved into a platform that makes the Twitter of yesteryear appear comparatively pleasant.
Musk has introduced a “Freedom of Speech, Not Freedom of Reach” policy that is failing to achieve its intended outcome. For Jewish individuals and/or Israelis on Twitter, hate speech is undeniably reaching them, and if it isn’t, they are adept at concealing their Jewish identity.
If you follow my account, you might have noticed a shift in my tone due to this new reality. While I long to return to my satirical approach, it seems that my experience on X will differ.
On Twitter, the experience of the pro-Israel community revolved around advocating for Israel’s right to exist, the well-being of Israelis, and raising awareness of violence against us abroad and at home. These discussions often included lively debates with anti-Israel individuals, countering misinformation with facts, and sharing personal experiences from within Israel.
The discourse on X has taken a drastically different turn. By not actively countering antisemitism, X has granted fringe extremists significantly greater exposure, undermining the notion of curtailing “freedom of reach.” Those propagating hate on X are unapologetically open about their antisemitic views and feel impervious to consequences.
Within the span of an hour, responses to my posts and others have included hundreds of accounts featuring antisemitic imagery as profile pictures, with many openly identifying as “proud antisemites” in their bios. Responses ranged from “Shut your Jew mouth” to repugnant Nazi-era caricatures depicting hunched-over Jewish figures, and even explicit images of Hitler.
For the accounts I managed to report, I received a response from X stating, “After reviewing the available information, we determined that there were no violations of the Twitter rules in the content you reported.”
Anyone else notice the conversation on Twitter is gradually evolving from discussing Israel's right to exist to discussing Jews' right to exist? A direct effect of fringe extremist speech getting much more exposure. Many of us seasoned Twitter users can take a beating on social… pic.twitter.com/xTJBv8okd0— The Mossad: Satirical, Yet Awesome (@TheMossadIL) August 6, 2023
I am well-versed in Twitter’s rules and guidelines. Even when reporting such content, they ask all the pertinent questions: Is the attack based on your identity? Are slurs or harmful stereotypes being used? Is dehumanization taking place? Are they referencing violent events targeting individuals based on their identity? Are they sharing hate symbols or images? The answer to all these questions is “yes.”
Many experienced Twitter users have developed a tolerance for online abuse due to years of combatting hatred on the platform. However, it is unreasonable to expect every Jewish and/or Israeli individual on X to endure a barrage of hateful rhetoric every time they log in, solely because of their nationality, race, or ethnicity.
Numerous individuals pay $8 monthly to access X’s premium features, making it essential for X to acknowledge that we are paying customers with legitimate expectations for customer service and issue resolution.
Imagine if every day, you go to work, only to face threats, baseless accusations of child killings, and attacks solely because you are Jewish or Israeli. When you attempt to stand up to your attackers, they intensify their assaults, dismiss your concerns, and even present images of events they wrongly attribute to you. When you report the harassment to authorities, they assert their right to mistreat you, claiming it as freedom of speech.
Today, this is the reality on X. While I’m hesitant to invoke Godwin’s Law, if X were a tangible place and time, where else in history have Jews been harassed and abused publicly for sport?
Just as the real Mossad stands at the forefront against physical attacks on Jewish and Israeli individuals to ensure their safety in the physical world, our fictional Mossad is fervently striving to create a safe online space for Jews and Israel.
We’ve become so accustomed to online abuse that we often forget – this isn’t normal. And it certainly shouldn’t be.
Enough is enough, and it’s disheartening that we find ourselves addressing this issue in 2023.
We implore X and Musk to treat antisemitism with the gravity it deserves.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Miriam f. Elman and Raeefa z. Shams