X Loses Case Against Hate-Speech Nonprofit

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X Corp case against nonprofit hate-speech researcher dismissed in California court, in blow to Elon Musk’s legal threats against critics

A US judge has dismissed a lawsuit by X Corp, formerly Twitter, against a nonprofit that had published research critical of the social media platform, saying there could be “no mistaking” that the suit was about “punishing” the firm’s critics.

X sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate in July in the US District Court for the Northern District of California after the CCDH published several reports it said showed a rise in hate speech on the platform following its takeover by entrepreneur Elon Musk in October 2022.

X said the organisation harmed its business by scaring away advertisers and had cost it tens of millions of dollars.

“Sometimes it is unclear what is driving a litigation, and only by reading between the lines of a complaint can one attempt to surmise a plaintiff’s true purpose,” wrote Judge Charles R. Breyer in a ruling on Monday.

“Other times, a complaint is so unabashedly and vociferously about one thing that there can be no mistaking that purpose. This case is about punishing the Defendants for their speech.”

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Image credit: SpaceX

‘Punishing’ criticism

He added that the case also appeared to be intended to dissuade other critical publications.

Recent research found that more than 100 projects studying X had been cancelled, suspended or changed due to Musk’s actions, including fears of lawsuits following the CCDH case.

X said it plans to appeal.

The ruling is a setback for Musk, currently the world’s second-richest person according to Forbes, who has used legal threats to stem criticism of his actions with the social media platform.

Those threats included a November lawsuit against Media Matters for America after it published a report showing ads appearing on X alongside neo-Nazi posts.

‘Right to research’

CCDH chief executive Imran Ahmed said the ruing had affirmed “our fundamental right to research, to speak, to advocate, and to hold accountable social media companies for decisions they make behind closed doors”.

X is also suing a law firm that represented it before Musk’s ownership, alleging it collected unreasonabily high fees, and is being sued by former Twitter executives who say Musk withheld severance and vendors and landlords who claim they have not been paid, amongst other cases.