Elon Musk has over the last year threatened legal action against tech competitors, employees and people who use Twitter, which he owns. Now he is also taking aim at an organization that studies hate speech and misinformation on social media.
X Corp., the parent company of the social media 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 making “a series of troubling and baseless claims that appear calculated to harm Twitter generally, and its digital advertising business specifically,” and threatening to sue.
The letter cited research published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate in June examining hate speech on Twitter, which Mr. Musk has renamed X.com. The research consisted of eight papers, including one that found that Twitter had taken no action against 99 percent of the 100 Twitter Blue accounts the center reported for “tweeting hate.” The letter called the research “false, misleading or both” and said the organization had 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 wanted to “stem the tide of negative stories and rebuild his relationship with advertisers.”
The center also said it did “not accept any funding from tech companies, governments, or their affiliates.”
In a blog post Monday evening, X announced that it had filed a lawsuit against the Center for Countering Digital Hate for “actively working to prevent free expression.” The suit was filed in federal court in the Northern District of California.
Twitter’s advertising business has been struggling under the ownership of Mr. Musk, who bought the company last year. U.S. ad revenue for the five weeks from April 1 to the first week of May was $88 million, down 59 percent from a year earlier. Advertisers may have been spooked by Mr. Musk’s changes to the social network, including the removal of rules of what can or can’t 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 was at least the third legal threat or action by X Corp. in the last 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 had copied Twitter’s trade secrets when creating Threads, a new social app.
X also sued Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a leading corporate law firm, this month over what it said were unjust payments related to Mr. Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter.