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Twitter, now called X, sues nonprofit tracking hate speech

Research group sticks by its reporting and claims lawsuit is 'straight out of the authoritarian playbook'
Elon Musk killed off the Twitter logo on 24 July 2023, replacing the world-recognised blue bird with a white X.
Elon Musk killed off the Twitter logo on 24 July 2023, replacing the world-recognised blue bird with a white X (AFP/File photo)

X, formerly known as Twitter, is suing British researchers in a US federal court over reports that hate speech has flourished on the platform, accusing the researchers of unlawfully obtaining and cherry-picking data.

X, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, accused the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) of generating "flawed" studies that have cost the tycoon’s tech firm tens of millions of dollars, a copy of the lawsuit showed.

But the legal basis outlined in the suit, filed in San Francisco late on Monday, was an accusation that the nonprofit violated X's terms of service in the way it accessed data for its reports.

CCDH chief executive Imran Ahmed said on Tuesday that Musk’s legal move is an effort to silence critics that comes “straight out of the authoritarian playbook”.

Ahmed stood by the group's research, saying it shows that hate and disinformation are “spreading like wildfire” at the Musk-run X.

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The billionaire’s lawsuit asks a court to grant X unspecified cash damages and to order the CCDH to stop the way it has been getting data for its reports.

The suit accuses the CCDH and its parent organisation in Britain of being “activist organizations masquerading as research agencies”.

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The social media platform goes on to argue in the suit that the nonprofit improperly gained access to data so it could “cherry-pick” information to back reports showing that the rebranded Twitter is rife with harmful content.

“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 said in a statement.

“Musk will not bully us into silence.”

For years, Twitter has been accused of failing to address hate speech on its platform. A recent study tracked tweets between 28 August 2019 and 27 August 2021 - before Musk took over the company - and found at least 3,759,180 Islamophobic posts.

The CCDH reported in June that Musk took no action against 99 percent of the 100 Twitter Blue accounts it reviewed which had "tweeted hate".

Since Musk bought Twitter for $44bn last October, the platform’s advertising business has collapsed as marketers soured on his management style and mass firings at the company gutted content moderation.

In response, the entrepreneur has moved toward building a subscriber base and pay model in search of new revenue. He also killed off the Twitter logo on 24 July 2023, replacing the world-recognised blue bird with a white X.

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