Elon Musk has followed through on his threat to sue watchdog organization Media Matters, albeit later in the day than he threatened over the weekend. In a suit filed on Monday, Musk claims that the group “knowingly and maliciously” misrepresented the amount of antisemitic content on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Watchdog organization Media Matters released a report on Thursday that accused X of placing ads for brands next to pro-Hitler and white nationalist accounts. Musk announced on Saturday that he would be filing a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters the “split second court opens on Monday.”
“Not a single authentic user on X saw IBM’s, Comcast’s, or Oracle’s ads next to the content in Media Matters’ article,” Linda Yaccarino asserted in a post on X. “Only 2 users saw Apple’s ad next to the content, at least one of which was Media Matters.”
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…
— Linda Yaccarino (@lindayaX) November 20, 2023
While not naming a specific dollar amount, the suit seeks “actual and consequential damages caused by Defendants’ misconduct,” along with an injunction to take down its article from both its site and social media that alleged X was placing ads for major brands next to antisemitic content.
In Musk’s weekend post, he threatened to sue “ALL those who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company.” However, the only codefendant named on the suit, besides Media Matters, is the report’s author: Eric Hananoki, a senior investigative reporter for the organization. Media Matters journalist Kat Abu posted on X following the suit’s filing defending her colleague, but has since deleted her post.
The day after the article, which was titled “As Musk endorses antisemitic conspiracy theory, X has been placing ads for Apple, Bravo, IBM, Oracle, and Xfinity next to pro-Nazi content,” a number of high-profile companies halted ads on the platform. Among those boycotting X are entertainment companies Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, Sony and Lionsgate. IBM and Apple are also among those suspending ads.
After advertisers started leaving, Musk called those advertisers “oppressors” of “free speech” and pushed X’s premium subscription service.
Following the filing of Musk’s suit, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that he is opening an investigation into Media Matters for what his office describes as “potential fraudulent activity.” Paxton, a Republican, said in a statement, “We are examining the issue closely to ensure that the public has not been deceived by the schemes of radical left-wing organizations who would like nothing more than to limit freedom by reducing participation in the public square.”
The legal paperwork calls the Media Matters article “false, defamatory and misleading.” Musk alleges that the outlet did not “find” the offensive ads next to more reputable ones, but “created” them via “inorganic” use of the site to “manufacture the harmful perception that X is at best an incompetent content moderator … or even worse that X was somehow indifferent or even encouraging to Nazi and racist ideology.”
In a statement over the weekend, Media Matters president/CEO Angelo Carusone wrote, “Far from the free speech advocate he claims to be, Musk is a bully who threatens meritless lawsuits in an attempt to silence reporting that he even confirmed is accurate. Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content we identified.”
Carusone concluded, “If he does sue us, we will win.” Since the suit was filed, Carusone has made several posts linking to pages for those who want to donate to the media watchdog, as well as retweeting a post showing X brand ad placements next to more antisemitic content.
Musk himself was called out on Friday for agreeing with a post that boosted the conspiracy theory that “Jewish communities have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.”
“You have said the actual truth,” replied the SpaceX founder in a post that has since been deleted.
The White House condemned the post, calling it “unacceptable to repeat the hideous lie behind the most fatal act of Antisemitism in American history at any time.”
Musk’s suit charges Media Matters with “interference with prospective economic advantage.” The X owner has asked for a jury trial.
Earlier in the day, right-wing host Megyn Kelly was among those defending Musk and attacked Media Matters, claiming that the organization was intent on getting conservatives “fired, ruined, canceled.”
This month, it was announced that a biopic would be produced about the controversial businessman. It looks like his career keeps producing new potential material.