(JTA) — Native Pittsburgher Bari Weiss, a prominent commentator on antisemitism in the United States, is taking a leading role in Elon Musk’s efforts to reshape Twitter by criticizing the platform’s past efforts to combat bigotry and harassment.
Starting last Thursday, Weiss has been releasing Twitter threads with what she and another opinion journalist, former Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, have deemed the “Twitter Files” — instances of how former Twitter moderators removed content they deemed as false or dangerous.
Making use of unusual access to Twitter’s internal records and systems, Weiss and Taibbi have made the case that Twitter has been subject to politically motivated decisions about what to remove by a “secret group” of high-level executives.
Those executives were tasked with executing Twitter’s moderation policies in sensitive cases, and the leaked communications show them doing so in politically neutral terms. But Weiss and Taibbi have argued that the suspensions doled out to conservative accounts, including former President Donald Trump, reflected a deep bias at the company.
Twitter shut down its Trust and Safety Council advisory group, which included 100 independent civil and human rights organizations, on Monday night. The group was formed in 2016 to address hate speech, child exploitation and other issues stemming from Twitter activity.
Musk’s supporters have been receptive, even forcing into hiding on Monday Yoel Roth, the Jewish former head of trust and safety at Twitter that Musk has falsely accused of stoking pedophilia and who has been targeted in Weiss’ tweets as well.
Weiss’ Twitter activism puts her at odds with a leading U.S. antisemitism watchdog, the Anti-Defamation League, which has long pushed for stricter moderation on Twitter and called for an advertiser boycott after Musk acquired the platform and expressions of hate spiked on it.
Weiss — who first vaulted into public view for calling out what she said was antisemitism on her college campus, and who quit a columnist job at The New York Times over what she described as bullying from colleagues — has worked with the ADL in the past. In conjunction with her 2019 book “How to Fight Antisemitism,” she has appeared at multiple events with the organization, as recently as November.
Now, she is a leading voice opposing what the ADL’s leadership says is one of the most pressing issues compromising American Jews’ safety.
The ADL declined to comment on Weiss’ involvement with Musk’s new moderation strategies. Weiss did not return requests for an interview.
Since Roth resigned from Twitter last month, he and Musk have exchanged criticisms on the platform. Over the weekend, Musk misrepresented a snippet from Roth’s graduate dissertation, writing: “Looks like Yoel is arguing in favor of children being able to access adult Internet services.”
On Monday night, Musk tweeted a phrase with a rabbit emoji that has become popular with followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement. He denied that he was referring to the movement or aiming a tweet at its followers, but QAnon communities across different platforms responded with excitement to his tweet, Vice News reported.
Accusations of pedophilia against public figures are commonplace in QAnon, which experts say also draws on antisemitic tropes. PJC