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Last year, Elon Musk, the X CEO who professes to be a champion of free speech, threatened to sue the Center for Countering Digital Hate, an independent non-profit research organization that found that hate, racism and disinformation had increased substantially on the platform that used to be Twitter after the Tesla boss took over. Well, X did eventually file that lawsuit, but on Monday, it was dismissed by a federal judge who essentially told Musk and the other X reps to stop being whiny little weenies who file suits out of transparent pettiness and white fragility. (OK, he didn’t say all that, but he was probably thinking it.)

“Sometimes it is unclear what is driving a litigation,” District Judge Charles Breyer of the US District Court for the Northern District of California wrote in a 52-page order. “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.”

Whaaaaah? This just couldn’t be. Musk just recently told ex-CNN host Don Lemon that the whole reason he acquired X in the first place was to “preserve freedom of speech in America.” Then again, Lemon’s show on X was abruptly canceled shortly after that interview, in which Musk embarrassed himself by failing to answer simple and reasonable questions about the decline of X and his absurd DEI remarks without getting visibly flustered and upset.

It’s almost as if Musk’s advocacy for free speech is limited to whatever free speech doesn’t make him or his company look bad.

As Breyer noted in his ruling, X’s lawsuit isn’t even accusing anyone of defamation.

“If CCDH’s publications were defamatory, that would be one thing, but X Corp. has carefully avoided saying that they are,” the judge wrote, adding that X “wishes to have it both ways,” by trying to impose “punishing damages” on CCDH while being very careful not to argue it has been defamed likely because it would never be able to prove that.

So, if X wasn’t suing to protect itself from lies that sully its reputation, then what the hell was this suit even about?

From CNN:

X’s lawsuit had accused the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) of violating the company’s terms of service when it studied, and then wrote about, hate speech on the platform following Musk’s takeover of Twitter in October 2022. X has blamed CCDH’s reports, which showcase the prevalence of hate speech on the platform, for amplifying brand safety concerns and driving advertisers away from the site.

In the suit, X claimed that it had suffered tens of millions of dollars in damages from CCDH’s publications. CCDH is an international non-profit with offices in the UK and US.

Because of its potential to destroy the watchdog group, the case has been widely viewed as a bellwether for research and accountability on X as Musk has welcomed back prominent white supremacists and others to the platform who had previously been suspended when the platform was still a publicly-traded company called Twitter.

So, Musk and them weren’t suing because the information in the CCDH’s findings was false—despite the fact that they initially called the organization’s research “false, misleading or both”—they filed the suit over the way the info was obtained, which caused them “brand safety concerns” that they don’t seem to be able to explain in any non-convoluted way.

Fortunately for people who actually advocate for free speech, Breyer was buying none of it.

More from CNN:

On Monday, Breyer wrote that CCDH’s writing about X “unquestionably constitutes” an exercise of the group’s free speech rights and that the group “makes a compelling case” that its data scraping from X “was newsgathering in furtherance of CCDH’s protected rights.”

He also said he was concerned about X litigating in bad faith and denied the company an opportunity to amend and refile its breach of contract claim.

“The Court is concerned that X Corp’s desire to amend its breach of contract claim has a dilatory motive — forcing CCDH to spend more time and money defending itself before it can hope to get out from under this potentially ruinous litigation,” he wrote. He added it would be “wrong” to let X amend its suit “when the damages it now alleges, and the damages it would like to allege, are so problematic, and when X Corp.’s motivation is so clear.”

Still, X responded to the ruling by posting on the platform that it plans to appeal the decision.

“Today a federal court in San Francisco issued a decision in the case X brought against the Center for Countering Digital Hate for illegally obtaining platform data to create misleading research,” the company tweeted. “X disagrees with the court’s decision and plans to appeal.”

Meanwhile, CCDH’s CEO, Imran Ahmed, is celebrating the win.

“CCDHate has won dismissal on all counts against ElonMusk’s X Corp’s outrageous and hypocritical SLAPP suit to silence our research,” Ahmed wrote. “This ruling sends a strong message to those who aim at intimidating and silencing independent research.”

And there it is. Musk should be happy because free speech won, but alas…


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