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X goes to court in Elon Musk’s war against an anti-hate research org

Twitter x logo musk 2

X goes to court in Elon Musk’s war against an anti-hate research org

Twitter x logo musk 2

Elon Musk’s crusade against the extremism research organization the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) will have its day in court on Thursday.

Elon Musk’s X sued the CCDH last year, accusing it of “actively working to assert false and misleading claims about X.” The nonprofit, formed in 2018, conducts research on social media platforms to track hate speech, extremism and misinformation. Its reports are regularly picked up by news organizations, TechCrunch included.

After Musk’s takeover of Twitter, the CCDH published reports about rising hate speech on X and how unbanned accounts, including neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, stood to make the company millions in ad revenue.

On Thursday, the CCDH will make a case for why X’s lawsuit is frivolous and runs afoul of the state’s anti-SLAPP law, which was created to kill litigation intended to intimidate or silence critics. X will defend the validity of its lawsuit, which also accuses the CCDH of illegally scraping data and violating its terms of service through Brandwatch, a social media monitoring tool. The oral arguments will take place in San Francisco’s U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and will be livestreamed.

Late last year, the CCDH filed a motion to strike X’s claims under California’s law against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) and asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit outright. CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed accused Musk, who is worth around $200 billion, of intentionally drawing out the legal process to run up the organization’s legal bills.

“Despite our continued progress, the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and its backers have been actively working to assert false and misleading claims about X and actively working to prevent public dialogue,” X wrote on its own platform last year.

Musk, who is personally involved in the lawsuit, has called the CCDH “an evil propaganda machine” and “bronze tier psy ops” in replies on X.

Musk filed a similar lawsuit against left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters for America last year and threatened another against the Anti-Defamation League over its reports of antisemitism on X. Unlike the CCDH lawsuit, X is suing Media Matters for America in Texas, which doesn’t have California’s anti-SLAPP protections.

Musk’s financial resources are basically unlimited, but the CCDH does have an ace up its sleeve. The nonprofit’s legal team includes Roberta Kaplan, the famed lawyer riding high after her massive win against former president Donald Trump in the E. Jean Carroll defamation suit.

The CCDH isn’t only focused on Twitter. The nonprofit regularly publishes research detailing disturbing trends on all mainstream social platforms, including reports of eating disorder content on TikTok, climate misinformation on YouTube and threats of violence against women on Instagram.

A loss in court for the CCDH would likely have an immediate chilling effect on researchers who track hate speech and misinformation on social media. That body of research has proven essential for providing transparency into major social networks in recent years as tech companies downplay the negative societal effects of their platforms and dodge regulations that could dampen their advertising businesses.

“This ridiculous lawsuit is a textbook example of a wealthy, unaccountable company weaponizing the courts to silence researchers, simply for studying the spread of hate speech, misinformation and extremism online,” Ahmed said. “CCDH isn’t just fighting this case for our own survival: we know we are standing up for the freedom of all independent researchers, academics, and journalists in the face of unprecedented efforts by the powerful to bully us.”


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