June 23, 2024

Elon Musk, as promised, is hauling Media Matters into court — alleging the liberal watchdog group “knowingly and maliciously manufactured” images depicting neo-Nazi and white-nationalist posts on X next to major marketers’ ads.

The complaint seeks unspecified monetary damages, as well as an injunction requiring Media Matters to “immediately delete, take down or otherwise remove” the article titled “As Musk endorses antisemitic conspiracy theory, X has been placing ads for Apple, Bravo, IBM, Oracle, and Xfinity next to pro-Nazi content.”

Media Matters reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit.

On Nov. 16, Media Matters released research finding that five major brands — Apple, IBM, NBCUniversal’s Bravo, Oracle and Comcast’s Xfinity — had their ads run next to posts that “tout Hitler and his Nazi Party” on X. A day later, Media Matters published a report claiming that it found ads for Amazon, NBA Mexico, NBCUniversal Catalyst, Action Network and Club for Growth next to white nationalist hashtags like “KeepEuropeWhite,” “white pride,” and “WLM” (“White Lives Matter”).

According to X’s lawsuit, Media Matters aimed to portray the Musk-owned social platform “as being dominated by ‘white nationalist and antisemitic conspiracy theories,’” per the complaint. “This November alone Media Matters released over twenty articles (and counting) disparaging both X Corp. and Elon Musk — a blatant smear campaign.”

Media Matters “exclusively followed a small subset of users consisting entirely of accounts in one of two categories: those known to produce extreme, fringe content, and accounts owned by X’s big-name advertisers,” the X lawsuit says. The research org’s accounts generated 13-15 times more ads per hour than the average X user in order to get the “result it wanted: controversial content next to X’s largest advertisers,” according to the lawsuit. “The end result was a feed precision-designed by Media Matters for a single purpose: to produce side-by-side ad/content placements that it could screenshot in an effort to alienate advertisers.”

“They pulled a scam,” Musk wrote on X about Media Matters early Sunday.

Not mentioned in X’s lawsuit: On Nov. 15, Musk agreed with an X user who had asserted that Jewish people “have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.” Musk responded, “You have said the actual truth.” The idea echoed the “replacement theory” antisemitic conspiracy theory, which posits that Jews are trying to “replace” white populations with nonwhite immigrants. The White House condemned Musk for promoting “antisemitic and racist hate.”

Following the Media Matters report and Musk’s endorsement of the antisemitic conspiracy theory, several large advertisers said they were halting their spending on X — either because of the Media Matters reports, Musk’s post or a combination of both. Those included Disney, IBM, Lionsgate, Paramount Global, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Sony and Warner Bros. Discovery. A rep for Lionsgate, for one, said the entertainment company “suspended advertising on X because of Elon Musk’s recent antisemitic tweet.”

X filed the lawsuit against Media Matters in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division. The suit alleges interference with contract, business disparagement, and interference with prospective economic advantage. “X Corp. was harmed as a result of Defendant Media Matters’ actions: It lost advertisers as a result of Defendant’s interference,” the company says in the complaint.

Linda Yaccarino, CEO of X, posted on the platform on Monday afternoon, “If you know me, you know I’m committed to truth and fairness. 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. Only 2 users saw Apple’s ad next to the content, at least one of which was Media Matters. Data wins over manipulation or allegations. Don’t be manipulated. Stand with X.”


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