Federal judge dismisses Musk lawsuit against hate-speech watchdog

A case brought by Elon Musk, the owner of X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, against a hate-speech watchdog group was dismissed by a federal court in San Francisco on Monday.

In his case against the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), Musk alleged that CCDH illegally scraped data from the platform while assembling reports about the spread of hate speech and misinformation online. Musk filed the lawsuit amid pressure from civil society groups over his decision to loosen Twitter’s content moderation rules.

Judge Charles Breyer, in a 52-page decision dismissing the case, argued the lawsuit was based around “punishing” CCDH for their speech.

“Sometimes it is unclear what is driving a litigation, and only by reading between the lines of a complaint can one attempt to surmise a plaintiff’s true purpose. 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,” Breyer wrote.

Imran Ahmed, founder and CEO of CCDH, said in a post on X, “This ruling sends a strong message to those who aim at intimidating and silencing independent research.”

The “X News” account posted that the company “disagrees with the court’s decision and plans to appeal.”

CCDH filed to strike X’s claims under California’s law against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), or lawsuits that serve a purpose of silencing or punishing a defendant to speak out on matters of public interest.

“X Corp.’s motivation in bringing this case is evident,” Breyer wrote. “X Corp. has brought this case in order to punish CCDH for CCDH publications that criticized X Corp.—and perhaps in order to dissuade others who might wish to engage in such criticism,” he added.

The ruling also said that if the publications “were defamatory” it would be a different situation, but X Corp. has “carefully avoided saying that they are.”

“It is also just not true that the complaint is only about data collection,” Breyer wrote.

“It is impossible to read the complaint and not conclude that X Corp. is far more concerned about CCDH’s speech than it is its data collection methods,” he added.

The court also dismissed two other claims made by X, one that sought damages from alleged losses caused by CCDH and one about allegations from an unnamed senator that referred to CCDH as a “foreign dark money group.”

The judge also said that X cannot seek damages for the independent acts of third parties based around CCDH’s speech on constitutional grounds.

On the allegations of being a “foreign dark money group,” the judge stated the allegations are “vague and conclusory, and do not state a plausible claim against the Doe defendants.”

Updated at 4:58 p.m. EDT.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.