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Elon Musk’s X sues anti-hate researchers for allegedly scraping data from Twitter

Elon Musk’s X sues anti-hate researchers for allegedly scraping data from Twitter

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Twitter claims the Center for Countering Digital Hate ‘embarked on a scare campaign’ to drive away advertisers.

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Illustration by Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Image: Getty Images

X Corp., the parent company of the platform once known as Twitter, is suing the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) over claims it “embarked on a scare campaign” to drive away advertisers. The lawsuit accuses the CCDH of “unlawfully” scraping data from Twitter and using it to create “flawed” research studies about the platform.

The CCDH is an anti-hate organization that publishes research about the spread of hateful content on social media platforms like Twitter. One recent CCDH study claims Twitter has failed to act on 99 percent of hateful content posted by Twitter Blue subscribers, and another states that the anti-LGBTQ+ “grooming” narrative has grown exponentially since Elon Musk’s takeover.

To create these reports, X Corp. claims that the CCDH “intentionally and unlawfully” scraped data from Twitter in violation of its terms of service. Additionally, X Corp. alleges that the CCDH gained “unauthorized” access to Twitter’s data through Brandwatch, a software company that lets customers monitor brands on social media. Instead of working directly with Brandwatch, the lawsuit claims the CCDH obtained the login details for another customer’s Brandwatch account, allowing them to access the service without the knowledge of Twitter or Brandwatch. Brandwatch did not respond to The Verge’s request for comment.

X Corp. also disputes the CCDH’s findings, saying the group’s reports are “unsubstantiated and incorrect.” The lawsuit claims that the CCDH publishes these reports “in efforts to silence users it disagrees with on topics of public debate,” causing “serious financial harm to X Corp.” It also states that some advertising companies have paused their spending on Twitter as a result, which it says has caused the loss of “tens of millions of dollars” in advertising revenues.

CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed said the lawsuit was an attempt to “silence” the group for its research. “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,” Ahmed said in a statement. “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.”

Twitter filed the lawsuit on Monday — the same day the CCDH published the threatening letter it received from Twitter on its website. In the letter, Twitter lawyer Alex Spiro said he could take legal action against the anti-hate organization for posting articles that make “inflammatory, outrageous, and false or misleading assertions” about Twitter. While Musk has said Twitter would take legal action against other companies before, such as Meta and Microsoft, he’s actually following through on the threat this time.

Musk has been critical of the CCDH in the past. He called Ahmed a “rat” in a tweet from earlier this month and recently questioned where the organization gets its funding. In both its letter to the organization and lawsuit, Twitter accuses the CCDH of getting funding from Twitter’s competitors and government entities — but it still doesn’t say who they are or how it knows this. Either way, Twitter clearly doesn’t like the details the CCDH is digging up, especially as it turns its focus to drumming up ad revenue.