Elon Musk’s X loses lawsuit against Bright Data over data scraping

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk

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A federal judge in California dismissed a lawsuit filed by Elon Musk’s X against Israel’s Bright Data, in a case that involved the scraping of public online data and its appropriate uses.

X, formerly Twitter, sued Bright Data, alleging the company “scrapes data from X” and sells it “using elaborate technical measures to evade X Corp.’s anti-scraping technology.” X also claimed the company violated its terms of service and copyright.

Data scraping occurs when automated programs scour publicly accessible websites to collect data, which can later be used for a wide range of purposes, including training artificial intelligence models and targeting online ads. The practice is generally legal in the U.S. when it involves scraping publicly accessible data, according to a 2022 ruling that capped off an extended legal battle involving LinkedIn.

X was previously seeking more than $1 million in damages from unknown defendants over “unlawfully scraping data associated with Texas residents,” according to a suit that was filed in Dallas County.

In dismissing the complaint, Judge William Alsup wrote, “X Corp. wants it both ways: to keep its safe harbors yet exercise a copyright owner’s right to exclude, wresting fees from those who wish to extract and copy X users’ content.”

Giving social networks complete control over the collection and use of public web data “risks the possible creation of information monopolies that would disserve the public interest,” the judge wrote. He added that X was not “looking to protect X users’ privacy,” and was “happy to allow the extraction and copying of X users’ content so long as it gets paid.”

A representative for X didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meta previously filed a complaint against Bright Data and was similarly unsuccessful.

Bright Data said in an emailed statement that its victories against Meta and X show that public information online “belongs to all of us, and any attempt to deny the public access will fail.”

“What is happening now is unprecedented, the implications impact general business, research, AI and beyond,” the company said.

Bright Data says it only scrapes publicly available data that’s visible to anyone without a login. At the time of the suit’s filing, X made the information Bright Data scraped available to anyone.

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