Lawsuit by Elon Musk’s X against hate speech watchdog heads to court

By Thomson Reuters Feb 29, 2024 | 6:06 AM

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Thursday will consider whether to dismiss X Corp’s lawsuit against a nonprofit that has criticized a rise in hate speech on the social media platform once known as Twitter since Elon Musk took it over.

X sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate last July, accusing it of trying to “scare” advertisers away by claiming that Musk was doing little to stop hate speech, racist posts and other misinformation from overwhelming the platform.

According to X, the nonprofit improperly scraped and cherry-picked data to create false and misleading reports, hoping to silence those it disagreed with on hotly disputed topics such as COVID-19 vaccines, reproductive health and climate change.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate countered that it was Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, who was attempting the silencing.

The center said it was not liable for how advertisers reacted to its non-defamatory reports about publicly available content on X, and that the lawsuit violated California’s so-called anti-SLAPP law, or strategic lawsuits against public participation.

The nonprofit also denied X’s claim that commercial rivals and perhaps foreign governments were bankrolling its efforts.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco will consider the dismissal request at a hearing. It was unclear whether he would rule immediately.

The European Climate Foundation, which promotes efforts to mitigate climate change, is also a defendant.

Musk, the world’s second-richest person, bought Twitter for $44 billion in October 2022.

He has since faced much criticism for firing too many people at X who policed misinformation, and for allowing more harmful and abusive posts.

Musk in November 2023 endorsed an antisemitic post on X that said members of the Jewish community were stoking hatred against white people, saying the user was speaking “the actual truth.”

He has denied being antisemitic and sought to make amends for his post. In January he visited former Nazi death camp Auschwitz in southern Poland.

Advertisers have fled X since Musk bought it and reduced content moderation that has resulted in a dramatic increase in hate speech on X, civil rights groups have said.

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

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 Richard Chang)