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X, the social-media giant formerly known as Twitter, threatened legal action against a non-profit organization earlier this month for spreading claims that hate speech has increased on the platform after Elon Musk acquired the company last year.
X attorney Alex Spiro wrote in a letter dated July 20 and addressed to the Center for Countering Digital Hate — a British non-profit that researches so-called online hate and disinformation — that the organization has published content intended to harm Musk’s business “by driving advertisers away from the platform with incendiary claims.”
Spiro reportedly wrote the center made “a series of troubling and baseless claims that appear calculated to harm Twitter generally, and its digital advertising business specifically,” citing eight examples that X reportedly called “false, misleading or both” from improper research methods.
Last month, the center claimed X — before taking on its new brand — failed to act on 99% of “toxic” tweets involving “racist, homophobic, neo-Nazi, antisemitic, or conspiracy content” posted by Twitter Blue subscribers.
Spiro specifically named the report in the letter while accusing the center of receiving funds from other social media platforms, including TikTok and Facebook. The center has previously published its own set of research targeting online conduct from X’s rival platforms.
X Corp is considering whether the organization may be liable under the Lanham Act, which covers trademark law.
“Please be advised that Twitter will employ any and all legal tools at its disposal to prevent false or misleading claims from harming its users, platform, or business,” the letter added.
Center for Countering Digital Hate CEO Imran Ahmed said in a statement that Musk’s actions “represent a brazen attempt to silence honest criticism and independent research, in the desperate hope that he can stem the tide of negative stories and rebuild his relationship with advertisers.”
Ahmed said the letter created an “unprecedented escalation” between the social media company and independent researchers.
“Musk has just declared open war,” Ahmed told The Associated Press. “If Musk succeeds in silencing us, other researchers will be next in line.”
“This should be the last time anyone dares to claim Musk is a ‘free speech absolutist’ – he is in fact, a bully who uses attack dogs to terrorize his opponents into silence,” Ahmed added.
Attorney Roberta Kaplan with the non-profit said in a response letter to Spiro that despite X’s freedom to pursue litigation, the company could face risks of “bringing frivolous claims to intimidate thoughtful critics and stifle legitimate commentary on issues of clear public interest.”
In separate posts on his X account, Musk said in response to the news that the center “should save their words for the jury.”
“Let’s pull the mask off this organization and see who is really behind it,” he said in another post.
Let’s pull the mask off this organization and see who is really behind it
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 31, 2023
According to X News Daily, the non-profit allegedly had some content moderation influence on the platform before Musk purchased Twitter last October. Two days before Spiro sent the letter to the organization, Elon questioned who funds the center.
“They spread disinformation and push censorship, while claiming the opposite,” he said. “Truly evil.”