Musk Threatens to Sue Online Hate Research Center

Center for Countering Digital Hate says Twitter owner is trying to silence nonprofit
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2023 6:35 PM CDT
Musk Threatens to Sue Online Hate Research Center
A partially completed "X" sign rests atop the company headquarters, formerly known as Twitter, in downtown San Francisco, on Friday, July 28, 2023.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Center for Countering Digital Hate says Elon Musk is trying to silence it with threats of a lawsuit. The nonprofit, whose researchers said hate speech on Twitter increased after Musk's takeover of the company, says it recently received a letter from Twitter's parent company accusing it of making "troubling and baseless claims that appear calculated to harm Twitter generally, and its digital advertising business specifically," the New York Times reports. The letter threatened legal action under trademark law and accused the center of carrying out false or misleading research funded by foreign governments "in support of an ulterior agenda."

The letter also accused the center, without evidence, of being funded by Twitter's competitors, though it has also published reports critical of platforms including Facebook and TikTok, the AP reports. Imran Ahmed, the center's founder and CEO, tells the AP that the CCDH has never received similar threats from any other tech company. "This is an unprecedented escalation by a social media company against independent researchers. Musk has just declared open war," he says. "If Musk succeeds in silencing us other researchers will be next in line." The center says it does not receive funding from governments—or social media companies.

In one CCDH report singled out as misleading in the letter from X Corp lawyer Alex Spiro, researchers said they reported 100 posts promoting hate, including one that said "Hitler was right," and that 99 of them were not removed within four days. In response to the letter, lawyer Roberta Kaplan said that there was "no bona fide legal grievance here" and that the threat of legal action was a "transparent attempt to silence honest criticism," the Guardian reports. "Obviously, such conduct could hardly be more inconsistent with the commitment to free speech purportedly held by Twitter's current leadership," Kaplan wrote. (More Twitter stories.)

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