The anti-hate speech group being sued by Elon Musk’s X has accused the company of lodging a claim “riddled with legal deficiencies” and trying to intimidate and censor it, amid growing pressure over the platform’s pro-nazi content and its owner’s support for an antisemitic post.
The Center for Countering Digital Hate has filed a motion to dismiss a civil lawsuit brought by X, formerly Twitter, which accused the non-profit organisation of a number of legal breaches.
The X lawsuit included an allegation that CCDH, a prominent critic of X’s content moderation standards under Musk’s ownership, had breached the site’s terms of service by scraping it for data subsequently used as evidence in the nonprofit’s research.
The US-UK campaign group said X’s complaint was related to its dislike of CCDH’s criticism of the platform, not an alleged breached of contract terms.
“X Corp’s claims are riddled with legal deficiencies on their own terms,” said CCDH’s filing. “They also all share one fundamental flaw: at its core, X Corp’s grievance is not that the CCDH defendants gathered public data in violation of obscure (and largely imagined) contract terms, but that they criticized X Corp (forcefully) to the public.”
In a statement released alongside the filing, the nonprofit said the X lawsuit was an “attempt to censor, intimidate, and silence the CCDH by burdening us with the financial cost of a legal defense”.
X is demanding unspecified damages from CCDH. Its complaint in a California federal court, filed in July, alleged that CCDH’s reports have cost it tens of millions of dollars in lost advertising business. CCDH announced last month that it had raised $100,000 towards its legal costs in a public fundraising campaign.
CCDH has filed its counter-motion in a US district court in San Francisco under California’s laws combating strategic lawsuits against public participation, or Slapps. Such lawsuits are viewed by critics as attempts to quell public criticism, and anti-Slapp laws have been brought in by some US states to prevent the shutting down of free speech.
Responding to the data-scraping accusation, the motion to dismiss says CCDH used the platform’s “own search function to collect publicly available information”.
CCDH’s legal move came as X scrambled to deal with accusations of failing to crack down on pro-nazi content on the platform, while Musk has been accused of making antisemitic comments on his X account. The technology firm IBM pulled its advertising from X on Thursday after a report from the US campaign group Media Matters that its ads were appearing next to content touting Adolf Hitler and supporting the Third Reich.
“IBM has zero tolerance for hate speech and discrimination and we have immediately suspended all advertising on X while we investigate this entirely unacceptable situation,” the company said.
Linda Yaccarino, X’s chief executive, said in a post on the platform on Thursday that the company was against discrimination.
“X’s point of view has always been very clear that discrimination by everyone should STOP across the board,” she wrote on Thursday. “I think that’s something we can and should all agree on.”
Yaccarino’s post followed an outcry on Wednesday over Musk’s support on X for a post from an account that said: “Jewish communties [sic] have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.”
Musk replied: “You have said the actual truth.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, which has been threatened with legal action by Musk, wrote: “At a time when antisemitism is exploding in America and surging around the world, it is indisputably dangerous to use one’s influence to validate and promote antisemitic theories.”
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