X, Seeking To Restore ‘The Truth,’ Sues So-Called Media Watchdog for Defamation

Some say that Media Matters’s strategy to drive away advertisers from X is part of a ‘leftwing media hoax.’

Patrick Pleul/pool via AP, file
Elon Musk. Patrick Pleul/pool via AP, file

“A blatant smear campaign” is targeting Elon Musk and his social media platform X, claims a lawsuit filed against the left-leaning nonprofit Media Matters. 

X is accusing Media Matters of defaming the company through manipulative and deceptive tactics that ultimately drove away advertisers and undermined its business. The lawsuit, filed in a district court in Texas on Monday, follows a report published by Media Matters last week which showcased instances of neo-Nazi and white-nationalist content appearing next to paid advertisements on X. 

The “self-proclaimed media watchdog,” X’s complaint asserts, “decided it would not let the truth get in the way of a story it wanted to publish about X Corp.” Media Matters’s report included screenshots of X posts quoting Adolf Hitler that appeared next to ads by multinational companies like Oracle. It claimed that these content pairings were part of Mr. Musk’s “descent into white nationalist and antisemitic conspiracy theories.”

If Media Matters’s goal was to peel away substantial sources of revenue from X, it succeeded. All but one of the companies featured in the report subsequently withdrew their ads from the platform, including IBM, Apple, and NBC Universal. IBM said in a statement that it was investigating “this entirely unacceptable situation.” 

X, meanwhile, claims that Media Matters manipulated algorithms on the site to create a false impression. It allegedly accessed existing accounts and exclusively followed extreme, fringe profiles owned by X’s advertisers. The complaint says that by “endlessly scrolling and refreshing its unrepresentative, hand-selected feed,” Media Matters then produced pairings of controversial content next to posts paid for by X’s largest advertisers.

“Manufactured, inorganic, and extraordinarily rare” is how X describes the content in question. It says that out of X’s more than 500 million monthly users, the distortion of IBM’s, Comcast’s, and Oracle’s ads was seen by only one viewer — Media Matters. By failing to document “the actual, organic production of content and advertisement pairings,” Media Matters allegedly sought to “tarnish X’s reputation by associating it with racist content.”

This is not the first effort by Media Matters to threaten X’s relationship with its advertisers, according to the suit. It published a series of articles that portrayed the platform as a risky and unsafe destination for advertisers, including 20 “disparaging” stories in November alone. Yet X’s chief executive, Linda Yaccarino, has claimed that brands are “protected from the risk of being next to” concernings posts. 

X is “saturated with extremism, with white genocide, with anti-semitism, with racism, with conspiracy theories,” Media Matters’s chief executive, Angelo Carusone, claimed on MSNBC on Sunday. For advertisers, he said, “there’s simply no way for the platform to ever cure the issues we’re dealing with here, because the rot goes all the way to the top.”

Mr. Musk has personally been under fire for appearing to promote antisemitism on the platform. Last week, in response to an X user who claimed that Jewish communities are pushing “dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them,” Mr. Musk wrote, “you have said the actual truth.” He quickly clarified that calls for “decolonization” are “unacceptable to any reasonable person.” 

In the days following Hamas’s attacks on Israel on October 7, Mr. Musk encouraged users to follow an account that repeatedly used “jew” as a term of abuse on the platform. He said the account was “good” for “following the war in real time,” drawing sharp criticism from some of his 164 million followers that led him to delete the post. 

Some X users are cheering for Mr. Musk in what they see as a politically motivated effort to take him down. “This was yet another leftwing media hoax, funded by leftist dark money networks and designed to harm the one social media bastion of free speech,” asserts one user who calls himself a “Liberty Maximalist.” An attorney writes that “Media Matters is just the tip of the Clinton Corruption Complex.” American political strategist Michael Caputo calls Mr. Carsune “authoritarian scum.”

The lawsuit was filed in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has, in recent years, sided with First Amendment rights on social media platforms. It was this court that upheld an injunction restricting the Biden administration’s alleged censorship campaign against social media companies. 

 Mr. Musk might know that the threshold for legally prosecuting speech is high, as he has previously been on the receiving end of defamation charges. In 2019, he won a suit against him after he called the caver who helped rescue 13 people from a cave in Thailand a “pedo guy.” While leaving the courtroom, Mr. Musk, victorious, told reporters: “my faith in humanity is restored.”

The Sun reached out to the press office of Media Matters and the attorneys representing the X Corporation and did not immediately receive responses. 

The New York Sun

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