X’s Lawsuit Against Anti-Hate Research Group Is Dismissed

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A federal judge in California on Monday dismissed X’s lawsuit against a nonprofit organization that studies hate speech online, ruling that the social media company’s case was designed to punish researchers for speaking freely about the social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.

X sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate in July in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California after the organization published several articles that claimed its researchers had discovered a rise in hate speech on the platform following Elon Musk’s takeover. X said that the group’s research was harming its business by scaring away advertisers, costing it millions of dollars.

But the court ruled that X’s lawsuit was an attempt to penalize the group for speaking negatively about the company, and that its work was protected under the law.

“Sometimes it is unclear what is driving a litigation, and only by reading between the lines of a complaint can one attempt to surmise a plaintiff’s true purpose,” Judge Charles R. Breyer wrote in a ruling on Monday. “Other times, a complaint is so unabashedly and vociferously about one thing that there can be no mistaking that purpose.” He added, “This case is about punishing the defendants for their speech.”

The ruling is a blow to Mr. Musk, who has used legal threats to battle critics of his social media platform. In November, he sued the advocacy group Media Matters for America after it published a report that showed ads on X appearing alongside neo-Nazi posts.

“We create costs for lies and hate,” said Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. “The courts today have affirmed our fundamental right to research, to speak, to advocate and to hold accountable social media companies for decisions they make behind closed doors that affect our kids, our democracy and our fundamental human rights and civil liberties.”

X said in a statement that it planned to appeal the decision and would continue to pursue legal action against the organization for “illegally obtaining platform data to create misleading research.”

The case was one of many legal fights currently embroiling Mr. Musk and X. The company is suing a law firm that represented it before Mr. Musk’s ownership, claiming that it collected unreasonably high fees. Former Twitter executives are also suing the company, claiming Mr. Musk improperly withheld their severance pay.

In addition, Mr. Musk is suing OpenAI, the artificial intelligence lab he co-founded, claiming that the company violated its principles. (The New York Times is also suing OpenAI and Microsoft over misuse of its copyrighted materials.)

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