It was widely reported that shortly after Elon Musk finalized his purchase of Twitter last year, the use of racial slurs skyrocketed on the platform, likely because bigots across America and the globe saw the acquisition as a green light to go full Grand Wizard Twitter and type out the n-word to their hearts’ content. Well, now, Musk and Twitter are fed up with organized internet sleuths calling them a digital utopia for frustrated and attention-starved racists and they’re threatening to fight back with a lawsuit.
According to Variety, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, an independent non-profit research organization, has Twitter’s litigation fingers foaming at the tips after the group found that hate, racism and disinformation had increased substantially under the platform’s new management.
“Musk and his legal team, led by attorney Alex Spiro at Quinn Emanuel, have engaged in an aggressive campaign to intimidate, bully, and silence CCDH,” the organization said in a statement released Monday. “While Elon Musk proclaims to be a ‘free speech absolutist,’ his actions against CCDH show the lengths he will go to silence those who seek to hold him to account.”
The Center for Countering Digital Hate recently published findings that Twitter failed to take action against 99 of 100 Twitter Blue accounts the organization reported for hate-speech violations. A July 20 letter from Spiro to the organization called the CCDH’s research “false, misleading or both” and said X Corp., the platform’s parent company, is “investigating whether CCDH’s false and misleading claims about Twitter are actionable” under U.S. law prohibiting unfair competition. The company, he wrote, has “reason to believe” that the CCDH is “supported by funding from X Corp.’s commercial competitors, as well as government entities and their affiliates.”
So, what you’re saying is—when Musk changed the name from “Twitter” to “X,” he was definitely not doing it to commemorate Malcolm. Got it.
Anyway, Musk and the other higher-ups at Twitter (or Xitter or Xeet or whatever the hell is going on over there) are not taking the organization’s egregious, inflammatory, insulting and probably accurate AF allegations lying down.
“Twitter takes its commitment to free speech, the enforcement of its rules and policies protecting users, and its strong relationships with its advertising partners all extremely seriously,” Spiro’s letter said. “To the extent that CCDH is passing off as impartial ‘research’ material that is in fact being funded in support of an ulterior agenda, your representations are all the more misleading.”
It’s interesting that in Spiro’s defense against allegations of letting racial slurs fly on the platform, his first declaration notes its “commitment to free speech” as opposed to its commitment to disallowing bigoted language to go unchecked. It’s almost as if they’re threatening to sue the CCDH over reporting a thing that they’re not even really all that ashamed of.
At any rate, the group doesn’t appear to be too flustered by the threat of litigation.
More from Variety:
In a letter dated July 31 to Spiro from Roberta Kaplan of Kaplan Hecker & Fink, which is representing CCDH, wrote that the research group “will not be bullied by your clients.” Kaplan’s letter did not address the group’s sources of funding but said, “Your assertion that the goal in CCDH’s research and reporting is to benefit Twitter’s competitors… ignores the fact that CCDH has published critical, highly publicized reports about other platforms, including Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.”
“Your clients, of course, are free to pursue litigation if they choose to do so,” Kaplan wrote. “But they should be mindful of the risks involved in bringing frivolous claims to intimidate thoughtful critics and stifle legitimate commentary on issues of clear public interest. And they should also know that CCDH is fully prepared to defend itself and its ability to continue pursuing its public mission.”
If X Corp./Twitter decides to sue CCDH, Kaplan added in the letter, “please be advised that CCDH intends to seek immediate discovery regarding hate speech and misinformation on the Twitter platform; Twitter’s policies and practices relating to these issues; and Twitter’s advertising revenue. In that event, a court will determine for itself the truth of the statements in our client’s report in accordance with the time-tested rules of civil procedure and evidence.”
The letter also indicated that Musk is out here championing himself as a fierce protector of free speech while doing his damndest to censor an independent organization that’s calling him out on his apparent indifference to hate speech. (Which would be pretty on-brand for the guy who defended Dilbert creator Scott Adams after he declared that Black people are collectively a “hate group.”)
“Elon 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,” said Imran Ahmed, the non-profit’s CEO. “Advertisers are fleeing his platform for one clear reason: Elon Musk has supported the proliferation of hate and racism on it, and he doesn’t care to stop it. Musk is targeting CCDH because we reveal the truth about the spread of hate and disinformation on Twitter under his ownership, and it’s impacting his bottom line. CCDH will continue to hold social media companies that spread hate and disinformation online accountable to the public.”
Welp—there it is.
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