Judge mocks X for “vapid” argument in Musk’s hate speech lawsuit


It looks like Elon Musk may lose X’s lawsuit against hate speech researchers who encouraged a major brand boycott after flagging ads appearing next to extremist content on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

X is trying to argue that the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) violated the site’s terms of service and illegally accessed non-public data to conduct its reporting, allegedly posing a security risk for X. The boycott, X alleged, cost the company tens of millions of dollars by spooking advertisers, while X contends that the CCDH’s reporting is misleading and ads are rarely served on extremist content.

But at a hearing Thursday, US district judge Charles Breyer told the CCDH that he would consider dismissing X’s lawsuit, repeatedly appearing to mock X’s decision to file it in the first place.

Seemingly skeptical of X’s entire argument, Breyer appeared particularly focused on how X intended to prove that the CCDH could have known that its reporting would trigger such substantial financial losses, as the lawsuit hinges on whether the alleged damages were “foreseeable,” NPR reported.

X’s lawyer, Jon Hawk, argued that when the CCDH joined Twitter in 2019, the group agreed to terms of service that noted those terms could change. So when Musk purchased Twitter and updated rules to reinstate accounts spreading hate speech, the CCDH should have been able to foresee those changes in terms and therefore anticipate that any reporting on spikes in hate speech would cause financial losses.

According to CNN, this is where Breyer became frustrated, telling Hawk, “I’m trying to figure out in my mind how that’s possibly true, because I don’t think it is.”

“What you have to tell me is, why is it foreseeable?” Breyer said. “That they should have understood that, at the time they entered the terms of service, that Twitter would then change its policy and allow this type of material to be disseminated?

“That, of course, reduces foreseeability to one of the most vapid extensions of law I’ve ever heard,” Breyer added. “‘Oh, what’s foreseeable is that things can change, and therefore, if there’s a change, it’s ‘foreseeable.’ I mean, that argument is truly remarkable.”

According to NPR, Breyer suggested that X was trying to “shoehorn” its legal theory by using language from a breach of contract claim, when what the company actually appeared to be alleging was defamation.

“You could’ve brought a defamation case; you didn’t bring a defamation case,” Breyer said. “And that’s significant.”

Breyer directly noted that one reason why X might not bring a defamation suit was if the CCDH’s reporting was accurate, NPR reported.

CCDH’s CEO and founder, Imran Ahmed, provided a statement to Ars, confirming that the group is “very pleased with how yesterday’s argument went, including many of the questions and comments from the court.”

“We remain confident in the strength of our arguments for dismissal,” Ahmed said.


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