Elon Musk’s X filed a lawsuit against Media Matters on Monday, accusing the media watchdog of defaming the company after several major companies—including Apple, IBM and Disney—pulled adverts from the platform following a report by the group that claimed adverts from those firms appeared below hateful and antisemitic posts.
The defamation lawsuit filed in a Federal Court in Texas accuses Media Matters of manipulating the social media platform’s algorithms “to bypass safeguards and create images of X’s largest advertisers’ paid posts adjacent to racist, incendiary content.”
The suit claims Media Matters’ actions created a “false impression” about how the ads are displayed for a typical user, with a scenario that is “manufactured, inorganic and extraordinarily rare.”
X alleges Media Matters followed accounts “known to produce extreme, fringe content” and “accounts owned by X’s big-name advertisers” to create a “feed precision-designed to produce side-by-side ad/content placements that it could screenshot.”
The suit claims Media Matters then resorted to “endlessly scrolling and refreshing” until the adverts appeared next to the hateful posts.
Aside from X’s suit, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also said his office is investigating Media Matters for “potential fraudulent activity,” citing Musk’s remarks about data manipulation.
Musk shared Paxton’s announcement on X, writing: “Fraud has both civil & criminal penalties.”
“This is a frivolous lawsuit meant to bully X’s critics into silence. Media Matters stands behind its reporting and look forward to winning in court,” Media Matters president Angelo Carusone said in response. In an earlier remark, Carusone said: “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.”
In a post on X, the company’s CEO Linda Yaccarino—who has faced calls to step down from the role—pushed back against Media Matters’ report, writing: “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.”
Over the weekend, a group of major advertisers including IBM, Disney, Apple, Sony and Warner Bros. pulled their adverts from X. The controversy began after Musk appeared to endorse an antisemitic post on X claiming Jewish communities that reject antisemitism show “hatred against whites.” Musk replied to the comment, calling it the “actual truth,” drawing strong condemnation from Jewish groups and even the White House. A day after Musk’s post, Media Matters published its report showing adverts for Apple, IBM, Oracle and Xfinity appeared beneath posts denying the Holocaust and praising Adolf Hitler. In response to the controversy, Must rejected allegations of antisemitism, saying: “Nothing could be further from the truth.” The billionaire then said his company would file a “thermonuclear” lawsuit against Media Matters.