Judge tosses X/Twitter lawsuit against group that produced study on the spread of hate speech on the platform
Judge tosses X/Twitter lawsuit against group that produced study on the spread of hate speech on the platform

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by X/Twitter against a watchdog group that conducted a study that examined the spread of hate speech on the platform.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer concluded that the Elon Musk-owned platform was trying to limit the speech rights of the Center to Counter Digital Hate and other groups.

The judge wrote that “X’s motivation for bringing this case is obvious. X Corp. brought this case to punish [Center for Countering Digital Hate] for CCDH posts that criticized X Corp. – and perhaps to dissuade others who might wish to engage in such criticism.

X/Twitter is suing the group, alleging that in conducting their research they illegally “scraped” the platform for its data, leading to a mass exodus of advertisers.

“X disagrees with the court’s decision and plans to appeal,” the company said.

Read the judge’s decision in the X case.

Imran Ahmed, founder and CEO of the watchdog group, wrote: “This decision sends a strong message to those who seek to intimidate and silence independent research.”

In his ruling, the judge even suggested that the X/Twitter litigation had chilled other kinds of research into misinformation online. He pointed to a recent survey of 167 academics and researchers that “found that over 100 studies on X Corp. have been diverted, suspended or cancelled, with more than half of those interviewed citing fear of being sued by X Corp. for its findings or data.”

The judge also noted the similarities of this case to another brought by X/Twitter against Media Matters for America, another watchdog group that published a study on X’s placement of ads next to hateful and racist posts.

Breyer wrote in a footnote: “If there is any question about the ‘punishment’ part, X Corp. filed a similar lawsuit, not in this court, in November 2023 against Media Matters, another nonprofit media watchdog, for “reporting ads from major brands appearing next to neo-Nazi content. Before doing so, Musk threatened a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters… Musk’s post also claims, remarkably, that the lawsuit is promoting X Corp’s efforts. “to protect freedom of speech”.

Breyer rejected X/Twitter’s arguments that the Center to Counter Digital Hate had created a security problem in its data collection. “It’s impossible to read the complaint and not conclude that X Corp. is far more concerned with CCDH’s speech than with its data collection methods,” the judge wrote.

The judge also dismissed X/Twitter’s claims of consumer harm. “There are no allegations in the complaint and X Corp. does not claim that it can adduce an allegation that CCDH deleted anything other than public tweets that ten users of the X platform intentionally broadcast to the world. No personal user information is included — no social security numbers, no account balances, no account numbers, no passwords, not even “gender, relationship status, advertising interests, etc.”

The judge added: “It is clear to the Court that if X Corp. was indeed motivated to spend money in response to the scraping of CCDH in 2023, it was not because of the harm that scraping did to the X platform, but because of the harm it posed to X Corp’s image. CCDH’s data collection allowed him to claim knowledge of what was happening on the X platform in a cumulative sense. According to CCDH, its exhaustion revealed that X Corp. generated millions of dollars in ad revenue from previously banned accounts.

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