Judge slaps down lawsuit by Elon Musk’s X against a nonprofit, saying it’s ‘unabashedly’ about punishing them for researching hate speech on the platform



In a searing Monday judgment, a federal judge called Elon Musk’s bluff and threw out a lawsuit filed by his social media company X Corp. against an anti-hate speech nonprofit, claiming that it was really about punishing the organization for its work and the revenues X lost when advertisers fled the platform.

The judge overseeing the case, Judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California scrapped the lawsuit filed against the Center for Countering Digital Hate under California’s anti-SLAPP provision, which aims to protect against frivolous and costly lawsuits. He also prevented the company from amending its lawsuit.

“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. Other times, a complaint is so unabashedly and vociferously about one thing that there can be no mistaking that purpose. This case represents the latter circumstance. This case is about punishing the Defendants for their speech,” wrote Breyer in the Monday dismissal.

In a statement posted to its official account on X, the company said it “disagrees with the court’s decision and plans to appeal.”

X, the company formerly known as Twitter owned by self-identified “free speech absolutist” Musk, filed a lawsuit last summer claiming that the Center for Countering Digital Hate had cost it “tens of millions of dollars in lost revenues.” The company said advertisers were put off and kept away by several reports the CCDH has published about it in recent years regarding hate speech, vaccine misinformation, and a return of banned users such as neo-nazis and white supremacists to the platform.

X’s lawyers alleged that these reports used “flawed methodologies” and cherry-picked data that it then labeled as “hate speech” if it didn’t conform to its own opinions. Yet, Judge Breyer noted that despite its claims to the contrary, X was careful to not attack the veracity of the CCDH’s claims in the suit and did not file a claim for defamation.

Instead, X attacked the nonprofit for its data collection methods, which included scraping, which journalists and researchers commonly use to extract data from a website. X also called out the nonprofit for “breach of contract.” 

Rather than condemn the content of the CCDH’s reports, which Breyer believes are at the heart of the case, it sought millions of dollars in damages while taking a simpler route to get the best of both worlds, he wrote.

“It is apparent to the Court that X Corp. wishes to have it both ways—to be spared the burdens of pleading a defamation claim, while bemoaning the harm to its reputation, and seeking punishing damages based on reputational harm.”  

If the lawsuit were really about data collection, X would probably still pursue it even if the CCDH had discarded the data it collected, lawyers for the CCDH said. Breyer agreed with the CCDH that this is likely not the case. 

“It is impossible to read the complaint and not conclude that X Corp. is far more concerned about CCDH’s speech than it is its data collection methods,” Breyer wrote in the Monday dismissal.

Breyer added that it’s evident from Musk’s tweets and other lawsuits X has filed (including a similar suit against Media Matters from November) that the social media company aims to attack those who criticize it and silence others.

“X Corp. has brought this case in order to punish CCDH for CCDH publications that criticized X Corp.—and perhaps in order to dissuade others who might wish to engage in such criticism,” he wrote.





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