X Corp sues anti-hate campaigners over Twitter
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An anti-hate organization whose research criticized Twitter is being sued by X, the company that owns Twitter.

Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), which has offices in the UK and the US, has been accused of “unlawful acts” to “improperly access” its data.

According to CCDH, Elon Musk is trying to silence critics of X Corp.

A “free-speech absolutist”, Musk has previously stated.

In addition to conducting research and campaigning against online hate, the CCDH is a not-for-profit organization. Several media outlets, including the BBC, have cited its reports. Damian Collins is a Conservative MP who sits on the UK board of directors.

It’s almost like ‘lawfare’ when a very well-resourced organization threatens a very small one, the former minister told The Times.

Three US congressmen, Lori Trahan, Adam Schiff, and Sean Casten, accused Musk of stifling unbiased research in the public interest by suing CCDH.

“Elon Musk’s latest legal threat is straight out of the authoritarian playbook – he is now showing he will stop at nothing to silence anyone who criticizes him,” said CCDH chief executive Imran Ahmed.

CCDH research showed that hate and disinformation were spreading like wildfire on Musk’s platform, Mr Ahmed said.

“Shooting the messenger” was what he accused the X Corp boss of doing.

The legal case was filed on Monday following a fiery exchange of letters, the first of which threatened legal action from X Corp lawyer Alex Spiro, followed by a forthright response from CCDH lawyer Roberta Kaplan.

Ian Russell, father of Molly Russell and CCDH UK board member, claimed Elon Musk’s legal action constituted an “unprecedented attack on civil society” in response to the legal letter from X Corp.

Musk’s aggressive tactics to stifle free speech and dampen much-needed scrutiny are astonishing at a time when Twitter seems to be backsliding on tackling harmful content.

Musk claimed in November that hate speech on the platform had decreased by a third since he took over.

Mr Spiro’s letter focused on alleged inaccuracies in CCDH research, which the organisation denied. But a new lawsuit filed on Monday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California made a number of new allegations.

A lawsuit seeks damages – the amount is not specified – from the not-for-profit center, claiming that the centre’s critical reports cost X Corp “at least tens of millions of dollars” in lost advertising funds.

Furthermore, it proposes amending the case to reveal the identities of CCDH’s backers, who it claims may include “foreign governments with ties to legacy media companies.”

A number of reports have been produced by CCDH critical of Twitter, formerly X.

According to the legal letter from Mr Spiro, the platform “fails to act on 99%” of hateful messages from accounts with Twitter Blue subscriptions.

The complaint criticizes CCDH’s research and methodology. The organization allegedly scraped data from X “intentionally and unlawfully” in violation of its terms of service.

CCDH claims to have gained “unauthorised” access to X’s data using a social media monitoring tool called Brandwatch.

According to the lawsuit, an unnamed third party improperly shared Brandwatch login information with the CCDH, allowing them to access data without authorization. Brandwatch has been contacted by the BBC for comment.

In addition, CCDH is accused of censoring contrary viewpoints on topics such as Covid-19 vaccines, reproductive healthcare, and climate change.

“Several companies who were advertising on X on an ongoing basis immediately paused their advertising on X as a result of the CCDH reports”, the case states.