Musk Seeks To Revive Battle With Hate Speech Researchers

Elon Musk will ask a federal appellate court to revive a lawsuit accusing the watchdog Center for Countering Digital Hate of scaring off advertisers by issuing critical reports about content on X, formerly Twitter.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer in the Northern District of California threw out the claims last month, ruling that Musk's X Corp. sued the nonprofit in order to penalize it over negative reports.

On Tuesday, X Corp. filed papers to initiate an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The legal fight dates to last August, when the Center for Countering Digital Hate reported that the platform failed to remove racist, homophobic and antisemitic 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, which has seen ad revenue plummet since its 2022 acquisition by Musk, didn't deny that those posts were on the platform.

Instead, the company alleged in a complaint that the watchdog violated the platform's terms of service by “scraping” the data that informed the reports. X separately claimed that the watchdog violated an anti-hacking law.

Center for Countering Digital Hate argued to Breyer that even if the allegations were proven true, they wouldn't give X grounds for a breach of contract suit or a suit over the anti-hacking law.

The group also said the allegations centered on “quintessential newsgathering activity,” and were therefore covered by California's anti-SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) law. That statute provides for fast dismissals of claims based on statements about matters of public interest, and also requires plaintiffs who bring such claims to pay the other side's legal fees.

Breyer disposed of the claims under the anti-SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) law.

“X Corp.’s motivation in bringing this case is evident,” Breyer wrote in his 52-page opinion dismissing the lawsuit. “This case is about punishing the defendants for their speech.”

Earlier this month, the Center for Countering Digital Hate asked Breyer to order X to pay attorneys' fees of $320,000.

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