X suit against online hate-speech watchdog gets tossed by judge

Musk late last year incited outrage with his endorsement of antisemitic commentary while simultaneously lashing out at critics who say that toxic speech on X – formerly known as Twitter – has proliferated since he took over the company in 2022. — AFP

A US federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by Elon Musk’s X Corp against a group that monitors online hate speech, concluding that the social media platform’s complaint was aimed at “punishing” criticism of it.

US District Judge Charles Breyer’s ruling Monday is a win for the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which was accused in the suit of falsely stating in a public research report that the social media platform “is overwhelmed with harmful content”.

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

Musk, who is among the world’s richest people and is famous for his provocative posts on social media, late last year incited outrage with his endorsement of antisemitic commentary. At the same time, the serial entrepreneur has lashed out at critics who say that toxic speech on X – formerly known as Twitter – has proliferated since he took over the company in 2022.

X alleged in the suit against the Center for Countering Digital Hate that it launched a “scare campaign to drive away advertisers from the X platform”. One report from the center had said Twitter took no action against 99% of 100 Twitter Blue accounts the center reported for “tweeting hate”.

The social media platform claimed the nonprofit obtained the data illegally, then highlighted select information out of context to make X seem inundated with harmful content. X also named Stichting European Climate Foundation as a defendant for allegedly giving the nonprofit access to a secured database that housed data about X.

Musk has voiced similar grievances against multiple organisations that he sued or has threatened to sue. Some advertisers fled the platform after Musk bought it for US$44bil (RM207.68bil) and started making changes, including reinstating formerly banned users and firing content moderators. Many have not returned, and Musk’s own tweets have been the cause of some concern among marketers.

In December, X lost its effort in court to block a California law that seeks to control toxic posts on social media by requiring companies to disclose their content-moderation polices.

Breyer used strong language to side with the center’s argument that X was trying to censor its work.

“Sometimes it is unclear what is driving a litigation, and only by reading between the lines of a complaint can one attempt to surmise a plaintiff’s true purpose,” the San Francisco judge wrote. “Other times, a complaint is so unabashedly and vociferously about one thing that there can be no mistaking that purpose. This case represents the latter circumstance. This case is about punishing the defendants for their speech.”

The nonprofit said in a statement that the ruling “sent a strong message about seeking to censor those who criticise social media companies, which we are confident will resonate throughout Silicon Valley and beyond”. – Bloomberg

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