Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, privately visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site in Poland on Monday in response to allegations that he has spread antisemitism on social media.
Musk Tours Auschwitz With Right-Wing Commentator
Musk was accompanied on the visit by conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro. The two men toured the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp where over 1 million people, mostly Jews, were systematically murdered during World War II.
Shapiro tweeted after the visit: “Auschwitz stands as a reminder of the bottomless potential of human evil — and why standing up to hate and protecting minorities of all kinds represents the highest and most urgent calling.”
Musk did not immediately comment on social media about the visit. However, he had previously announced that he would attend an event in Poland focused on online antisemitism.
Backlash Over Tweet About “Media Elite”
The Auschwitz visit comes on the heels of harsh criticism Musk faced in December 2023 when he tweeted that the “media elite” have become “the wound that never heals” and control the “narrative illusion.” Many public figures and organizations accused Musk of propagating an antisemitic conspiracy theory.
In response, Musk said that by “media elite” he was not referring to any particular ethnic group but rather the media establishment in general. Still, the White House condemned Musk’s original tweet as “dangerous speech.” The Auschwitz Memorial also urged him to visit the historical site to gain perspective.
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|Musk privately tours Auschwitz with Ben Shapiro
While Musk denied spreading antisemitism, his visit to Auschwitz represents an attempt to demonstrate his understanding of Jewish history and the dangers of hate. However, some critics argue the visit comes too late and seems more like a publicity stunt.
Scheduled To Speak About Online Antisemitism
Musk’s trip to Poland is centered around his scheduled speech at a symposium on antisemitism taking place near the Auschwitz site. Organized by the European Jewish Association, Musk will specifically address the topic of combating antisemitism online.
Social media platforms have struggled with limiting the spread of hate speech while also protecting free speech. Far-right extremists have proven adept at using sites like Twitter to promote antisemitic and racist views.
As the new owner of Twitter, Musk faces scrutiny over his content moderation policies. Some worry his emphasis on free speech absolves Twitter from properly monitoring threats of violence and the spread of misinformation. Attending an event dedicated to online antisemitism indicates Musk takes these concerns seriously to some degree.
What Comes Next?
It remains to be seen whether Musk’s visit to Auschwitz and upcoming speech will satisfy his critics. While a step in the right direction, some see it as too little too late after the controversy his tweet stirred.
Musk will need to follow up his trip to Poland with tangible policy changes at Twitter that curb online antisemitism and threats against minorities. Creating more robust hate speech detection tools would demonstrate meaningful progress.
Of course, Musk has also inspired conspiracy theories claiming he has personal connections to the Rothschild family or serves as an agent of Israel. Such bizarre allegations only underline the challenge of content moderation when it comes to prejudice and misinformation.
At the very least, touring Auschwitz gives Musk direct exposure to the horrors enabled by unchecked antisemitism. One can hope the sobering experience motivates substantial effort from Musk and Twitter to prevent even faint echoes of such extremism from finding traction online.
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