X Corp., the parent company of the platform formerly known as Twitter, has filed a lawsuit against the non-profit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) alleging that the group “embarked on a scare campaign” to drive off advertisers after he took over the social media platform.
In a court filing, X Corp said that the UK and US branches of CCDH were “activist organizations masquerading as research agencies” and are funded by “unknown organisations, individuals and potentially even foreign governments with ties to legacy media companies.”
X Corp has also alleged that CCDH “intentionally and unlawfully” accessed data on the X (AKA Twitter) platform by using scraping tools. After Musk took over Twitter, one of his first moves was to start charging for access to the site’s API for scraping data — claiming that companies from OpenAI to Google were financially benefitting from Twitter’s data by using it to train AI.
“CCDH also convinced an unknown third party — in violation of that third party’s contractual obligations — to improperly share login credentials to a secured database that CCDH then accessed, and retrieved information from, on multiple occasions without authorization,” said the lawsuit — this is the far more serious allegation of the two.
This allegedly illegal access to data and scraping of the Twitter platform was all part of CCDH’s plan to “make it appear as if X is overwhelmed by harmful content, and then used that contrived narrative to call
for companies to stop advertising on X.”
Whether or not CCDH’s campaign to stop advertisers spending with Twitter was illegal, the fact remains that advertisers did abandon the platform following Musk’s takeover.
One industry exec told B&T as long ago as January that advertisers had decided Twitter was simply too hard to use thanks to Musk’s hair-brained approach to corporate strategy and that they were unwilling to commit to Twitter long-term given the platform’s uncertainty.
That lack of certainty manifested as a 50 per cent drop in ad revenue for Twitter.
Responding to the lawsuit, CCDH founder and CEO Imran Ahmed said that Musk’s actions were “straight out of the authoritarian playbook.”
“He is now showing he will stop at nothing to silence anyone who criticises him for his own decisions and actions. The Center for Countering Digital Hate’s research shows that hate and disinformation is spreading like wildfire on the platform under Musk’s ownership and this lawsuit is a direct attempt to silence those efforts.
“People don’t want to see or be associated with hate, antisemitism and the dangerous content that we all see proliferating on X. Musk is trying to ‘shoot the messenger’ who highlights the toxic content on his platform rather than deal with the toxic environment he’s created. CCDH has no intention of stopping our independent research – Musk will not bully us into silence.”