‘Ridiculous’ US lawsuit by Musk’s X Corp should be dismissed -hate speech watchdog

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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – A nonprofit that monitors online hate speech urged a U.S. federal judge to throw out what it called a “ridiculous” lawsuit by Elon Musk’s X Corp to stifle free expression.

X, formerly Twitter, sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate in July, accusing it of trying to drive advertisers away through a “scare campaign” showing hate speech and other harmful content appeared to be overwhelming the platform.

According to the complaint, X lost tens of millions of dollars of ad revenue from “false and misleading” research reports that the center issued to create an “ideological echo chamber” for its preferred views.

This week, Musk, the world’s richest person, sparked an outcry after endorsing as “the actual truth” an antisemitic post on X that falsely accused Jews of hating white people.

In a Thursday night filing in San Francisco federal court, the Center for Countering Digital Hate said X made up claims about how it gathered data from the platform, with each theory “flimsier and more absurd than the last.”

The nonprofit also called the “ridiculous” and “baseless” lawsuit an attempt to silence others who say things X may not like. It also denied X’s claim that commercial rivals and perhaps even foreign governments were funding its activities.

“X Corp’s grievance is not that the CCDH defendants gathered public data in violation of obscure (and largely imagined) contract terms, but that they criticized X Corp (forcefully) to the public,” the nonprofit said. “Fortunately, state and federal free speech protections cannot be so easily evaded.”

A lawyer for X did not immediately respond on Friday to requests for comment.

Since buying Twitter for $44 billion in October 2022, Musk has faced much criticism for firing too many people who policed misinformation on the platform, and for allowing more harmful and abusive posts.

On Thursday, IBM suspended advertising on X after a report found its ads were appearing alongside content promoting Adolf Hitler and Nazis.

Musk is also chief executive of electric vehicle maker Tesla, which has faced several lawsuits claiming it tolerated harassment of workers.

In September, X sued California to block the state from enforcing a law requiring that social media companies publish policies for policing misinformation, harassment, hate speech and extremism.

X said the law, Assembly Bill 587, violates its free speech rights. A federal judge will begin reviewing whether to enjoin the law in late November.

The case is X Corp v. Center for Countering Digital Hate Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 23-03836.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)

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