Twitter Threatens Legal Action Against Nonprofit Criticizing Platform
Twitter, once endorsed by Elon Musk as a platform valuing free speech, is now considering legal action against a nonprofit group that has sharply criticized its approach to hate speech and misinformation.
In a letter dated July 20, shared publicly on Monday, Twitter threatened to sue the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), accusing it of damaging the company by driving advertisers away. The CCDH has produced various reports scrutinizing social media companies' handling of issues ranging from vaccine misinformation to online racism and antisemitism.
The letter, written by Alex Spiro, an external attorney representing Twitter owner Elon Musk's interests, alleges that the CCDH's reports have contained "inflammatory, outrageous, and false or misleading assertions about Twitter and its operations." Spiro argued that these reports lacked scientific rigor.
To support his claim, Spiro pointed to a CCDH report that flagged tweets from 100 Twitter Blue subscribers as harmful, with the organization alleging that Twitter had not taken action on the majority of these harmful tweets after several days. The resulting CCDH report claimed that Twitter had failed to address "99% of Twitter Blue accounts tweeting hate."
Spiro's letter suggested that CCDH's intent was to harm Twitter's business by making incendiary claims. He stated that Twitter is looking into whether it can sue CCDH for false representations of the company.
CCDH shared Spiro's letter on Twitter, along with its response to Twitter's legal threat. In their reply, CCDH labeled the threat as "ridiculous."
CCDH's response, dated Monday, asserted that the allegations lacked factual basis and accused Twitter of attempting to intimidate advocates who work against incitement, hate speech, and harmful online content. The organization's lawyers criticized Twitter for trying to suppress critical research.
Elon Musk, who has rebranded Twitter as X, has taken significant actions since assuming control, including reducing around 80% of the company's staff, including content moderation teams.
In the past year, concerns over Twitter's handling of hate speech have persisted under Musk's leadership. This has prompted brands to pause their advertising on the platform, leading to financial losses for the company.
Despite claiming that hate speech impressions declined in the month following his takeover, Musk acknowledged that Twitter's ad revenue remains down by 50%, and the company is still cash-flow negative.
Twitter has also restricted third-party access to its data, drawing criticism from researchers who study online harms. These changes could hinder studies on misinformation, harassment, and spam on the platform.
Threatening legal action has become a strategy for Musk as Twitter faces ongoing pressure. Earlier this month, Twitter threatened to sue Meta (formerly Facebook) over its competing app, Threads. In May, Musk's attorney sent a letter to Microsoft, accusing the tech giant of overusing its ability to download tweets from the platform.