Late Monday, X Corp. (formerly Twitter) followed through on its threat to sue the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate over reports about offensive speech on the platform.
In a complaint brought in federal court for the Northern District of California, X Corp. claims that the nonprofit research organization violated its terms of service by scraping data.
The company also alleges that the nonprofit induced someone (whose identity is as yet unknown) to share log-in credentials to Brandwatch -- a Twitter partner that offers tools to analyze the company's data.
Why did the nonprofit do this? According to X Corp., the Center for Countering Digital Hate was gathering material for a “scare campaign” aimed at driving away advertisers, to further the ultimate goal of “censoring” social media.
In the last two years, the nonprofit has issued critical reports regarding problematic material online -- including misinformation about vaccines, hate speech, and ads on Google for fake abortion clinics.
Just last month, the group reported that Twitter failed to remove objectionable speech -- including racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic comments -- posted by Twitter Blue subscribers. That report cited several examples, such as the posts “Diversity is a codeword for White Genocide,” and “Trannies are pedophiles.”
X Corp. -- which has lost at least 50% of its ad revenue since Elon Musk acquired it last year -- doesn't deny that those posts were on the platform, but accuses the group of cherry picking its examples.
The nonprofit allegedly engaged in “a series of unlawful acts designed to improperly gain access to protected X Corp. data ... so that it could cherry-pick from the hundreds of millions of posts made each day on X and falsely claim it had statistical support showing the platform is overwhelmed with harmful content,” the complaint alleges.
X Corp. adds that the Center for Countering Digital Hate aims “to censor a wide range of viewpoints on social media with which it disagrees.”
X Corp. also alleges -- apparently based on second-hand statements -- that it believes the organization is funded by Twitter's competitors as well as “government entities and their affiliates.”
“Articles have claimed that [the nonprofit] is, in part, funded and supported by foreign organizations and entities whose directors, trustees, and other decision-makers are affiliated with legacy media organizations,” the complaint asserts.
Center for Countering Digital Hate founder and CEO Imran Ahmed responded Monday that the lawsuit shows X Corp. owner Elon Musk “will stop at nothing to silence anyone who criticizes him for his own decisions and actions.”
“Musk is trying to ‘shoot the messenger’ who highlights the toxic content on his platform rather than deal with the toxic environment he’s created,” Ahmed stated in a blog post.