Elon Musk v. Center for Countering Digital Hate: Nonprofit ‘fighting for freedom of researchers everywhere’ as it prepares for pivotal court battle

Posted on February 29, 2024 in Press releases.

Musk picture next to CCDH's logo
  • In July 2023, Elon Musk and X Corp. filed a lawsuit against the Center for Countering Digital Hate, blaming the nonprofit for ‘tens of millions of dollars’ in lost advertising revenue after the organization reported on hate speech and misinformation on the platform 
  • The lawsuit is a direct assault on our free speech, with the aim of running up legal costs, distracting us from our work, and deterring others from reporting on X, CCDH said
  • CCDH and Musk’s X Corp. will meet in a pivotal hearing in San Francisco, live streamed on Zoom, on Thursday, February 29
  • The Center is represented by Roberta Kaplan, the renowned attorney who recently won an $83.3m defamation case against Donald Trump on behalf of E. Jean Carroll

The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), the nonprofit research group being sued by Elon Musk, said it is “standing up for the freedom of independent researchers everywhere in the face of unprecedented efforts by the powerful to bully us into silence,” as it prepares for a pivotal court date on Thursday, February 29.

In its lawsuit, filed on July 31, X Corp. seeks to blame CCDH for “tens of millions of dollars” in lost advertising revenue after it published reports documenting the spread of hate speech and misinformation on X (formerly Twitter).

In response, lawyers for CCDH filed a motion to strike X Corp.’s claims under California’s law against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) as well as a motion to dismiss the case in its entirety in November.

Throughout the case, X Corp. has concocted arguments that have been riddled with legal deficiencies. X Corp. claims that, in the event the court sides with CCDH and holds its complaint deficient, it should be allowed to file yet another amended complaint. 

“X Corp.’s actions expose its real goal, which is to keep this case in court for as long as possible, running up our costs,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO and founder of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. 

X Corp. has faced widespread criticism for its handling of extremist content on X.

Since completing his takeover of the platform, Musk has fired 80% of X’s global staff, reinstated previously banned accounts like Andrew Tate and Alex Jones, sold ‘verified’ blue check marks for $8 a month, and boosted extremist voices. The public has seen harmful content spread like wildfire on the platform – and advertisers distance themselves from the site.

Rather than addressing content moderation failures, Musk chose to “shoot the messenger” by initiating a “ridiculous, baseless and intimidatory” lawsuit designed to deter CCDH and other independent researchers, academics and journalists from reporting on X.

In the last year, Musk also launched a series of targeted attacks against CCDH and Ahmed personally:

Imran Ahmed, CEO and founder of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said:

“This ridiculous lawsuit is a textbook example of a wealthy, unaccountable company weaponizing the courts to silence researchers, simply for studying the spread of hate speech, misinformation and extremism online. 

“Musk has revealed himself repeatedly as a thin-skinned hypocrite who claims the mantle of free speech but acts like a tyrant towards internal and external critics.

“CCDH isn’t just fighting this case for our own survival: we know we are standing up for the freedom of all independent researchers, academics, and journalists in the face of unprecedented efforts by the powerful to bully us. We will not be intimidated into silence.”