Musk’s X Sues Media Matters Over Nazism Report

Elon Musk’s X, formerly Twitter, sued nonprofit Media Matters and its writer Eric Hananoki in Texas on Monday over what it called an “intentionally deceptive report” alleging pro-Nazi content had appeared alongside mainstream advertising.

Washington, DC-based Media Matters says it is involved in “monitoring, analysing and correcting conservative misinformation in the US media”.

On the same day Texas attorney general Ken Paxton opened an investigation into “potential fraudulent activity” by the nonprofit.

Paxton said in a statement his office was looking into the situation to “ensure that the public has not been deceived by the schemes of radical left-wing organisations who would like nothing more than to limit freedom by reducing participation in the public square”.

Image credit: X

Advertising pulled

Hananoki’s report for Media Matters, released last week, included screenshots showing advertisements from major companies appearing alongside accounts praising Nazism and denying the Holocaust.

In response a number of advertisers, including IBM, Apple and Disney, suspended advertising on the platform.

X’s lawsuit, which claims interference with contract, business disparagement and interference with prospective economic advantage, says some of the platform’s biggest advertisers had paused their spending.

The lawsuit claims Media Matters manipulated X’s advertising display algorithm by following 30 accounts consisting solely of extremist users and large companies and undergoing “excessive” scrolling and refreshing to ensure the desired result.

‘False, misleading’

“The overall effect on advertisers and users was to create the false, misleading perception that these types of pairings were common, widespread, and alarming,” the lawsuit states.

X said its safety protocols “under normal, organic conditions operate seamlessly”.

Under Musk the platform’s policy is to restrict the reach of controversial posts rather than removing them, and ensure they do not profit from advertising.

X chief executive Linda Yaccarino said in some cases the advertising was displayed alongside the indicated content for only one user – Media Matters writer Hananoki.

“Not a single authentic user on X saw IBM’s, Comcast’s, or Oracle’s ads next to the content in Media Matters’ article,” she said in a statement provided to Silicon UK.

Criticism

“Only two users saw Apple’s ad next to the content, at least one of which was Media Matters.”

Media Matters president Angelo Carusone on X called the filing a “frivolous lawsuit meant to bully X’s critics into silence” and said his firm stood by the reporting.

Last July X sued the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a UK-US nonprofit, in California over a report about the platform’s alleged failure to remove extremist content.

The CCDH last week responded with a motion to dismiss the suit under California rules against strategic lawsuits that are intended to  quell public criticism.

Earlier this month a study by the Coalition for Independent Technology Research found more than 100 studies focusing on X have been cancelled, suspended or changed due to the platform’s policies under Musk, including the threat of lawsuits similar to the one against the CCDH.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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