Elon Musk last year threatened legal action against technology competitors, the employees and people who use Twitter, which belongs to him. Now he’s also targeting an organization that studies hate speech and misinformation on social media.
X Corp., the social media company’s parent company, sent a letter on July 20 to the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit that conducts research on social media, accusing the organization of committing “a series of disturbing and baseless statements that appear calculated to harm Twitter in general, and its digital advertising business in particular,” and threatened to sue.
The letter cited research published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate in June that analyzed hate speech on Twitter, renamed Mr. Musk that X.com. The research consisted of eight papers, including one that found Twitter took no action against 99 percent of 100 Twitter Blue accounts reported by the center for “hate tweeting.” The letter called the research “false, misleading or both” and said the organization used improper methodology.
The letter added that the center was funded by Twitter’s competitors or foreign governments “in support of an ulterior agenda.”
Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said, “Elon Musk’s actions represent a brazen attempt to silence honest criticism and independent research.” He added that Mr. Musk to “suppress negative stories and rebuild his relationship with advertisers.”
The center also said it “does not receive any funding from tech companies, governments, or their affiliates.”
In a blog post Monday night, X announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the Center for Countering Digital Hate for “actively working to prevent free expression.” The case was filed in federal court in the Northern District of California.
Twitter’s advertising business has struggled under Mr. Musk, who bought the company last year. US ad revenue for the five weeks from April 1 to the first week of May was $88 million, down 59 percent from last year. Advertisers may have been scared off by Mr. Musk on the social network, including removing rules about what can and cannot be said on the service and more ads featuring online gambling and marijuana products.
In May, Mr. Musk hired Linda Yaccarino, a former top advertising executive for NBCUniversal, to become Twitter’s chief executive.
The letter is at least the third legal threat or action by X Corp. in the past two months. In May, it sent a letter to Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, accusing the tech giant of improperly using its data. This month, it also sent a letter to Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, saying it copied Twitter’s trade secrets when it created Threads, a new social app.
X also sued Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a leading corporate law firm, this month over what it said were unfair payments related to Mr. Musk of Twitter.