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MANILA, Philippines – Elon Musk’s X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday, July 31, sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), an independent research nonprofit organization that tries to make social media companies accountable for hate speech and human rights issues on their platforms, for its reporting on the proliferation of hate speech on X.
Media outlets earlier reported Elon Musk’s X had sent a letter to the CCDH, threatening to sue the non-profit for unspecified damages.
In response to that letter, lawyers for the CCDH accused X of “intimidating those who have the courage to advocate against incitement, hate speech and harmful content online.” They also said that X’s allegations had no factual basis.
X said social media analytics firm Brandwatch “made X aware that the CCDH gained access to X’s data without Brandwatch’s authorization, and that the purported CCDH ‘research’ cited in a Bloomberg article ‘contained metrics used out of context to make unsubstantiated assertions about X (formerly Twitter).’ Additionally, the CCDH has recently scraped X’s platform, which is a violation of our terms of service.”
Variety added ,”The complaint accuses CCDH of breach of contract, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, intentional interference with contractual relations, and inducing breach of contract. X’s suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and an injunction barring CCDH from accessing, using. or disclosing data provided by X/Twitter to Brandwatch.”
Blaming the CCDH for ad revenue downturn
Musk has previously disclosed ad revenue is down 50% since his takeover, and he has blamed CCDH and other groups like it for the downturn in advertising revenue.
Since his takeover of Twitter-slash-X, Musk has reduced the number of people working on the site, including members of its trust and safety team, and the platform has also reinstated previously-banned white supremacists and disinformation agents in his wake.
Musk has also recently reorganized the trust and safety team under his and CEO Linda Yaccarino’s banner.
In June, CCDH released a study pointing to Twitter not taking action against 99% of hate speech posted by paid subscribers to Twitter Blue.
Musk’s X legal team, in its earlier threat to sue, released a letter on July 20, with lawyer Alex Spiro saying, “CCDH regularly posts articles making inflammatory, outrageous, and false or misleading assertions about Twitter and its operations, which CCDH holds out to the general public as supported by ‘research.'”
Spiro added in the letter that the CCDH “intends to harm Twitter’s business by driving advertisers away from the platform with incendiary claims,” and also said he has “reason to believe” the CCDH is funded by competing interests or government entities.
‘Brazen attempt to silence honest criticism and independent research’
In a separate blog post, CCDH also publicized the letters sent by Musk’s legal team and its response.
CCDH pointed out specific tweets highlighting the lack of enforcement against the social media platform’s standards.
It added that X has also made it difficult to do research on the platform, saying that, “under Mr. Musk’s leadership, Twitter has taken steps to curtail research on the platform. To criticize CCDH for being too limited in its research while simultaneously taking steps to close the platform off to independent research and analysis is the very height of hypocrisy.”
Meanwhile, CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed said in a statement released on July 31 that “Elon Musk’s actions represent a brazen attempt to silence honest criticism and independent research, in the desperate hope that he can stem the tide of negative stories and rebuild his relationship with advertisers.”
“Advertisers are fleeing his platform for one clear reason: Elon Musk has supported the proliferation of hate and racism on it, and he doesn’t care to stop it. Musk is targeting CCDH because we reveal the truth about the spread of hate and disinformation on Twitter under his ownership, and it’s impacting his bottom line. CCDH will continue to hold social media companies that spread hate and disinformation online accountable to the public,” Ahmed added. – with reports from Reuters/Rappler.com