Who's right? X Corp's legal battle against CCDH
X Corp, after Elon Musk bought the app, has been under fire for allegations of increased hate speech on the platform. The company is now taking legal action against The Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), which has released multiple reports monitoring the growth of harmful content.
The CCDH has consistently claimed to have recorded a surge in hate speech on the app following its acquisition by Musk. In December, they reported a noticeable rise in offensive remarks towards Black and transgender individuals after Musk's takeover. Their findings also suggest that Twitter is not taking action on inappropriate tweets from Twitter Blue subscribers. Moreover, tweets that use 'grooming' slurs in relation to the LGBTQ+ community are reportedly being allowed to stay on the platform.
Some of these observations seem to line up with the app's recent 'Freedom of Speech, Not Reach' policy. This new approach by the X team leans towards keeping tweets posted rather than taking them down. Nevertheless, X Corp plans to challenge CCDH's allegations in court, as Musk aims to reveal the identities of those behind the group.
CCDH has a respond for Musk's letter
According to the statements made by the CCDH:
“Last week we got a letter from Elon Musk’s X. Corp threatening CCDH with legal action over our work, exposing the proliferation of hate and lies on Twitter since he became the owner. Elon Musk’s actions represent a brazen attempt to silence honest criticism and independent research in the desperate hope that he can stem the tide of negative stories and rebuild his relationship with advertisers.”
X Corp seems to be attempting to counter well-publicized accusations that the platform has become less safe for brands than before, aiming to reassure advertising partners.
However, X Corp's concerns have some merit. Meta has also criticized the CCDH's findings previously as being narrow and not reflective of its overall efforts to control hate speech.
This is a common limitation of third-party evaluations. Outside groups can only review a certain number of posts, so their conclusions are based on the content they select for their study. Both Meta and X Corp argue that the CCDH's studies are too limited to accurately reflect their broader performance.
Despite these arguments, such reports have received extensive media attention, likely impacting X Corp's business. Increased reports of hate speech and harmful content might deter brand partners from advertising on the platform. This is what Musk and his legal team aim to counter by suing the CCDH.
In return, the CCDH has promised to stand by its claims. They described Musk's legal action as 'a disturbing effort to intimidate those who dare to stand against incitement, hate speech, and harmful content online.' The CCDH further argues that Musk has intentionally tried to limit outside research by changing rules around third-party data access, making a full-scale analysis of the platform's content impossible.
Musk and his X Corp team have increased the cost of accessing API on the platform, including for academic groups. This has restricted such analysis, making it almost impossible in most cases. Consequently, the only reliable source of insight would be the data produced by X Corp itself.
On that front, Musk and the X team have repeatedly claimed that hate speech impressions are way down since Musk took over at the app, with its most recent claim on this front being:
We remain committed to maintaining free speech on Twitter, while equally maintaining the health of our platform. Today, more than 99.99% of Tweet impressions are from healthy content, or content that does not violate our rules.
Read more about our progress on our enforcement…
— Safety (@Safety) July 12, 2023