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Judge dismisses Elon Musk’s lawsuit against hate speech researchers

X owner Elon Musk is suing the Center for Countering Digital Hate after the organization released a series of reports detailing a rise in hate speech on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Zarek Sokolowski/AP

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Zarek Sokolowski/AP

X owner Elon Musk is suing the Center for Countering Digital Hate after the organization released a series of reports detailing a rise in hate speech on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Zarek Sokolowski/AP

a federal judge dismissed X Boss Musk files lawsuit against a company The research team documented an increase in hate speech on the social media site and said the group’s reporting on the platform formerly known as Twitter is protected by the First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer wrote in Monday’s ruling that Musk’s lawsuit “targets one thing so unabashedly and fiercely that its purpose cannot be misunderstood.” “This case is about punishment.” Defendant’s Statement.”

among Advertiser boycott Last year, Musk sued the Center to Counter Digital Hate, a research and advocacy group, accusing the group of violating the social media site’s terms of service when collecting data for its report.

One of the team’s findings was that, publish In June, it detailed how “racist, homophobic, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic or conspiracy content” for paying users would not be moderated on the site.

During a hearing in February, Musk’s lawyers asked if they could refile the lawsuit against the research group, but Breyer rejected the request. Claims that the alleged data scraping compromised the platform’s security “do not make much sense,” the judge said.

Judge expresses doubt about Musk’s claims

Researchers at the center said the data was compiled using third-party tools that obtain publicly available information, but Musk argued that the group stole large amounts of data from X without the company’s permission, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in lost advertising revenue. Dollar.

At the February hearing, Breyer appeared Highly suspicious He elaborated on those concerns in Monday’s order dismissing the lawsuit.

“It is also incorrect to suggest that the complaint only concerns data collection,” the judge wrote. “After reading the complaint, it is impossible not to conclude that X Corp. was more concerned about CCDH’s rhetoric than its data collection methods.” .

Musk is a self-described free speech absolutist, often saying that almost everything within the law should be allowed on X. Musk himself, however, has been less tolerant of comments and remarks that have been harshly critical of him.

In November, Musk be accused A report by another group, the left-leaning nonprofit Media Matters for America, documented how ads from major companies appeared alongside anti-Semitic content on X. The lawsuit, which is still pending, called the group’s report a “blatant defamation campaign.”

Musk did not respond to a request for comment on Monday’s ruling, but in an email after a hearing in the case last month, Musk wrote: “Your organization is not on X and therefore does not exist as far as I am concerned.” Referring to NPR’s decision to withdraw from the platform last year.

Since the center won under California’s so-called anti-SLAPP law — which protects individuals and groups from frivolous lawsuits aimed at suppressing free speech — Musk will be on the hook to pay the group’s legal fees.

“The exact amount of the fee will need to be agreed upon in court,” said Ben Weich, a translator for the group.

Musk has brought back previously suspended users to X

In 2022, after Musk acquired Twitter, he suspended the accounts of several journalists who reported on Musk’s acquisition of the site. recover They came after backlash.

Imran Ahmed, founder and CEO of the Center to Counter Digital Hate, sees Musk’s lawsuit as the billionaire’s latest effort to quell criticism of the way he runs his social media site.

“We hope this landmark ruling will encourage public interest researchers everywhere to continue and even intensify their important work in confronting social media companies about the hate and disinformation they spread and the harm they cause,” Ahmed said. Responsible.”

Since Musk completed his acquisition of Twitter in October 2022, he has fired most of his employees and reinstated users who were suspended for supporting white supremacy and denying the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

He also upended the platform’s verification system by allowing users to pay for the once-coveted blue checkmark.

X users (some of whom had previously quit Twitter) who paid for Musk’s premium service were able to write longer posts and gain greater visibility.

Musk has been inconsistent about the state of X’s business.

Sometimes he would say business was strong, but other times he would point to a 60% drop in advertising revenue and raise the possibility of the company entering bankruptcy proceedings.

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