Judge slams Twitter's attempt to silence hate speech watchdog

Elon Musk's "thermonuclear lawsuits" against watchdog groups are turning out to be wet firecrackers. In a significant legal setback for Musk, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer has dismissed Twitter's lawsuit against the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a hate speech watchdog group that conducted a study exposing the proliferation of hate speech on the platform. The judge concluded that Twitter was attempting to "punish [CCDH] for CCDH publications that criticized X Corp. — and perhaps in order to dissuade others who might wish to engage in such criticism."

Deadline reports that the judge emphasized X/Twitter's litigation had a chilling effect on independent research into online disinformation, pointing to a recent survey that found "over 100 studies about X Corp. have been diverted, stalled, or canceled, with over half of those interviewed citing a fear of being sued by X Corp. over their findings or data."

The judge also noted the striking similarity between this case and another lawsuit brought by Twitter against Media Matters for America, another hate speech watchdog group. In a footnote, the judge highlighted Musk's alarming threat of a "thermonuclear lawsuit" against Media Matters for reporting on ads from major brands appearing next to neo-Nazi content on the platform:

If there is any question about the "punishing" part, X Corp. filed a similar suit, not before this Court, in November of 2023 against Media Matters, another non-profit media watchdog, for "reporting on ads from major brands appearing next to neo-Nazi content." Prior to doing so, Musk threatened a "thermonuclear lawsuit" against Media Matters…Musk's post also claimed, remarkably, that the lawsuit was furthering X Corp. efforts "to protect free speech."

Rejecting X/Twitter's claims that CCDH's data collection methods posed a security risk or harmed users, Breyer concluded, "It is clear to the Court that if X Corp. was indeed motived to spend money in response to CCDH's scraping in 2023, it was not because of the harm such scraping posed to the X platform, but because of the harm it posed to X Corp.'s image."

"X disagrees with the court's decision and plans to appeal," said Twitter in response to the ruling.

See also: Elon admits ads ran against Nazi content, threatens to sue watchdog site that wrote about it