Twitter, which owner Elon Musk promised would become a bastion of free speech, has threatened legal action against a nonprofit that studies misinformation and hate speech for highlighting the social network’s flaws.
X Corp, the parent company of Twitter (newly and unsuccessfully renamed X.com), sent a letter on July 20 to the Center for Countering Digital Hate accusing the group of making “a series of troubling and baseless claims that appear calculated to harm Twitter generally, and its digital advertising business specifically.”
X Corp threatened to sue, alleging the nonprofit was funded by Twitter’s competitors or foreign governments “in support of an ulterior agenda.” The letter specifically cited research on hate speech on Twitter that the center published in June. One of the eight papers the organization published found that Twitter took no action against 99 of the 100 Twitter Blue accounts that the center had reported for “tweeting hate.”
The center’s chief executive, Imran Ahmed, slammed the legal threat. “Elon Musk’s actions represent a brazen attempt to silence honest criticism and independent research,” he told The New York Times. The organization also said it had not accepted funding from any other tech companies, foreign governments, or their affiliates.
Ahmed also accused Musk of wanting to “stem the tide of negative stories and rebuild his relationship with advertisers,” who have left Twitter in droves since Musk took over. The platform’s U.S. advertising revenue from April to May of this year was just $88 million, down 59 percent from the same time period last year. The platform is worth a third of what Musk originally paid for it.
Some of that may be due to the fact that Musk has allowed Nazis and the Taliban on Twitter—and even verified them. He also has done nothing to rein in antisemitic and transphobic speech on the platform. If anything, he’s one of the main sources of it.
So in that sense, Musk is actually upholding free speech. It’s just that his idea of free speech means saying the grossest things humanly possible and facing zero consequences for it.