Legal Battle Looms: Musk Threatens to Sue Researchers Over Hate Tweet Study

X, formerly known as Twitter, has warned of legal action against independent researchers who revealed a surge in hate speech on the platform since its acquisition by Elon Musk last year. The Center for Countering Digital Hate received a letter from X's attorney on July 20, accusing their research publications of intending to damage the platform's business by pushing advertisers away with inflammatory allegations.

New Management

Earlier this month, Musk, a self-proclaimed advocate of free speech, rebranded the social media platform as X and allowed the return of alleged white supremacists and election deniers to the site. However, the billionaire has reportedly shown sensitivity to criticism directed at him or his companies.

Musk has a history of responding fiercely to critics. In the past, he suspended accounts of journalists covering his Twitter takeover and permanently banned a user who tracked his private plane using publicly available data, citing personal safety concerns. He also issued threats of lawsuits.

Initially, Musk pledged to allow any speech that wasn't illegal on his platform, asserting his support for free speech. However, X's recent threat of a lawsuit has drawn criticism from U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who accused the billionaire of attempting to use legal action as a means of punishing a nonprofit group seeking to hold a powerful social media platform accountable.

Due Diligence

The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a nonprofit with offices in the U.S. and United Kingdom, regularly releases reports on hate speech, extremism, and harmful behavior across various platforms like X, TikTok, and Facebook.

CCDH has been openly critical of Musk's leadership, publishing reports highlighting a rise in anti-LGBTQ hate speech and climate misinformation since his acquisition. X's attorney's letter specifically referenced a June report by CCDH, which revealed the platform's failure to remove neo-Nazi and anti-LGBTQ content from verified users, despite violating the platform's rules.

Attorney Alex Spiro's letter criticized the researchers' expertise and alleged the center's intent to harm X's reputation. It also baselessly suggested the center received funds from X's competitors, despite the center having published critical reports about TikTok, Facebook, and other platforms.

A ‘Severe Response'

Imran Ahmed, the CEO of the center, revealed on Monday that they had never encountered such a severe response from any tech company, despite their history of studying the connection between social media, hate speech, and extremism. Normally, companies targeted by the center's criticism respond by defending their actions or pledging to address identified issues.

Ahmed expressed concerns that X's reaction could discourage other researchers from studying the platform and potentially set a precedent for other industries to adopt similar aggressive tactics.

Describing X's actions as “an unprecedented escalation,” Ahmed told the Associated Press that Musk had essentially declared open war on independent researchers. He feared that if Musk succeeds in silencing their group, it may embolden others to target researchers next.

Schiff urged Musk to focus on addressing the increasingly disturbing content on Twitter instead of attacking researchers.

This article was produced and syndicated by Max My Money.

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