Elon Musk has launched discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, staunchly defending himself against accusations of anti-Semitism. “Obviously I’m against anti-Semitism. I’m against anything that incites hatred and conflict,” Musk said in a broadcast conversation with Netanyahu from Tesla’s offices in Fremont, Calif. The live broadcast was conducted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Musk is escalating his feud with the Anti-Defamation League, which he accuses of destroying X’s advertising revenue. The Anti-Defamation League joined other civil rights watchdogs in highlighting an increase in extremist content on the platform after Musk took over the platform last year and laid off most of its staff. Earlier this month, Musk threatened to sue ADL and liked X’s post using the hashtag “BantheADL.”

Netanyahu said he hoped Musk would be able to “limit anti-Semitism and hatred within the confines of the First Amendment,” acknowledging that it was “not an easy task.”

Musk said that “on any given day, there are 100 million to 200 million posts in the system,” and said that while it would be difficult to “regulate it in advance,” he could take steps to “scale it down.” We don’t promote hate speech because that may not be what people want to hear,” he said.

Earlier this month, Musk said he “supports free speech” but opposes “anti-Semitism of any kind.”

Netanyahu is in Silicon Valley later this week before attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, trying to convince the world’s top tech executives that he is not an outcast despite months of political turmoil in Israel. The prime minister’s reputation as a pro-business leader has taken a hit due to his efforts to weaken Israel’s judiciary, which has sparked months of protests and has the support of many of the country’s tech entrepreneurs.

Israeli tech workers living in the Bay Area demonstrated Monday against judicial reforms during Netanyahu’s visit. When the prime minister arrived, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at California airports and hotels, chanting “shame” and “democracy” as his motorcade passed.

Netanyahu said during wide-ranging discussions with Musk that Israel “has been, is and will be a strong democracy” but said he would move forward with a plan to change the way judges are selected. The Israeli leader called the country’s judiciary the “most aggressive” in the world but said he would seek “happy centrism” in limiting its powers.

Artificial Intelligence Disruption

The prime minister met with Musk as part of a full day of artificial intelligence-focused events in which he sought to showcase Israel’s artificial intelligence potential. His agenda includes a tour of the Tesla factory and a ride in a self-driving car. As he left Tel Aviv, Netanyahu told reporters on the tarmac that he was courting the world’s richest man to invest in Israeli artificial intelligence startups in the coming years.

Investors now back Israeli tech startups

Ahead of the meeting, an Israeli official traveling with the prime minister sought to downplay tensions with Musk and said planning for the meeting began before the anti-Semitism controversy erupted earlier this month. The official said Netanyahu did not believe Musk harbored any anti-Semitic views.

After Netanyahu asked Musk how to prevent “armies of bots” from amplifying hate speech on X, the entrepreneur said the platform would move to requiring a small monthly fee.

“This is a very tough problem,” Musk responded, saying it was the “most important reason” he moved to a monthly payment system. He said bots cost a fraction of a penny to operate under X’s current system, which offers both free and paid tiers. Asking someone to pay a few dollars to use the service makes the “effective cost of the bot” very high and requires the bot operator to use a new payment method every time they want to create one, he said.

Later, in a roundtable discussion about artificial intelligence, OpenAI co-founder and president Greg Brockman said that the startup is not under pressure to deploy its technology quickly, but must protect the privacy of its users.

“What the market actually turns us against is when it conflicts with other values, such as privacy,” he said.

Brockman noted that when OpenAI initially launched an API for its GPT model, it planned to monitor and log “everything” so that it could record the data and review it if something went wrong.

“People hate this,” he said. “You want other people to have that privacy, but for yourself, you want privacy.”

When OpenAI released a version of ChatGPT for enterprises in August, it touted its compliance with a number of privacy measures, such as data encryption and assurances that the startup would not use customers’ information to develop its technology.

According to an Israeli official, Netanyahu and Musk have been in contact since 2018, when the Israeli prime minister hosted the SpaceX founder at his residence in Jerusalem. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the relationship. The official said Netanyahu and Musk had been in touch and shared views on the potential benefits and risks of artificial intelligence. Netanyahu spokesman Topaz Luk said the prime minister and Musk had discussed the emerging technology on several phone calls.

During Monday’s discussion, Netanyahu expressed concerns that unchecked artificial intelligence could lead to “the destruction of democracy, thought manipulation, criminal groups, AI-driven wars.” Netanyahu said he would draft Israel’s artificial intelligence policy in the coming months.

© 2023 Bloomberg


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