Court Says Elon Musk’s Lawsuit Against Anti-Hate Group Is an Attack on Free Speech

Court Says Elon Musk’s Lawsuit Against Anti-Hate Group Is an Attack on Free Speech

A California court dismissed Elon Musk and X Corp.’s lawsuit against the Center for Counseling Digital Hate (CCDH) on Monday. The court ruled Musk was trying to “punish” researchers for criticizing X after the CCDH reported a rise in hate speech and misinformation on the platform. The lawsuit tried to blame the CCDH for pushing major advertisers away.

“This case is about punishing the Defendants for their speech,” said Judge Breyer in his ruling on Monday.

Musk’s lawsuit attempted to blame the CCDH for “tens of millions of dollars” in lost advertising revenue. X tried to make the case that these “faulty narratives” were the reason advertisers were fleeing, instead of the hate speech the CCDH was reporting on. The court ruled this case was just about punishing researchers for their speech and aimed to “dissuade others who might wish to engage in such criticism.”

“We are grateful for the district court’s careful and comprehensive opinion, which refuses to allow Elon Musk and X Corp. to weaponize the courts to censor good-faith research and reporting,” said Roberta Kaplan, the CCDH’s attorney in a statement to Gizmodo.

X called out three CCDH reports in the lawsuit for allegedly scaring off advertisers. The first report from 2021 highlighted twelve anti-vaxxers who made up nearly two-thirds of the vaccine disinformation on X. The second report in November 2022 found a rise in hate speech on the platform, the same month Apple and IBM pulled advertising from X. The third report from Feb. 2023 says Elon Musk reinstated thousands of toxic accounts, that include Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and misogynists.

This is one of Musk’s lawsuits against researchers reporting on X’s rise in hate speech. Musk also sued Media Matters in November for scaring off major advertisers such as Apple and IBM. That suit is ongoing but similarly casts blame on reporters for calling out X’s hate speech, instead of assuming responsibility for the hate speech in question.

A lawyer representing X in this lawsuit did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

X has been abandoned by several of its largest advertisers in the last year. It didn’t help the case when Elon Musk told advertisers to “go f–k yourselves” on the stage of The New York Times DealBook Summit.

Elon Musk purportedly bought Twitter to protect free speech on the platform, but this legal ruling alleges he is trying to silence his critics. The judge categorizes this as a SLAPP, a strategic lawsuit meant to silence and censor your opponent. Lawsuits have become Musk’s love language in the last few years, as it’s become typical for him to bury his opponents in legal filings.

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