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Elon Musk, X sue Media Matters over report on advertisers

Elon Musk, the owner of social media platform Twitter, appears at an event in 2018.
Elon Musk, the owner of social media platform Twitter, appears at an event in 2018. (Photo by Daniel Oberhaus via Flickr, Graphic by The Desk)

Elon Musk and his social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, have carried through on a threat to sue the media watchdog Media Matters for America in federal court.

On Monday, Musk and X filed the complaint in the Northern District of Texas, alleaging Media Matters contributed to malicious economic interference with a report that claimed advertising from IBM, Comcast, Oracle and others were displayed alongside neo-Nazi and white supremacist material on the platform.

“Media Matters knowingly and maliciously manufactured side-by-side images depicting advertisers’ posts on X Corp.’s social media platform beside Neo-Nazi and white-nationalist fringe content and then portrayed these manufactured images as if they were what typical X users experience on the platform,” the complaint said. “Media Matters designed both these images and its resulting media strategy to drive advertisers from the platform and destroy X Corp.”

It wasn’t clear why Musk filed his lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas, when Twitter is based in California and Media Matters in New York. But it may have something to do with the federal court’s friendliness toward corporations in that district, as well as anti-SLAPP laws that would have almost immediately led to a dismissal of Musk’s lawsuit if it were filed in California or New York.

DOCUMENT: Read the legal complaint filed by X against Media Matters (PDF)

Musk and X claim Media Matters’ own use of the platform — to search for controversial material, then write about it — was the reason why advertisers appeared alongside “featured” posts from unsavory actors whose material almost certainly violated some of X’s own content guidelines.

“Here’s the truth. Not a single authentic user on X saw IBM’s, Comcast’s, or Oracle’s ads next to the content in Media Matters’ article,” claimed Linda Yaccarino, the former NBC Universal executive who became X’s CEO earlier this year when it was still known as Twitter.

Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal, was one of several major media and technology companies to announce it was “pausing” its advertising spend on X after the Media Matters report. Some companies also decided to pull their advertising campaigns from the platform after Musk appeared to endorse an anti-Semitic tweet posted by another user of the service.

Early Monday, the founder and chief executive of Media Matters for America suggested that if Musk did carry through with his intention to sue, “we will win.”

“Musk is no free speech advocate,” the CEO, Angelo Carusone, wrote on X. “He’s a bully threatening meritless lawsuits in attempt to silence reporting that he confirmed is accurate. Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content Media Matters identified.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).