November 29, 2023

Elon Musk Files Lawsuit Over White Supremacist Ads Placement On X – Deadline


It wasn’t exactly the “split second” the courthouse opened this morning as promised, but Elon Musk has now filed his self-described “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters.

“Defendant Media Matters for America is a self-proclaimed media watchdog that decided it would not let the truth get in the way of a story it wanted to publish about X Corp,” proclaimed the jury trial-seeking complaint filed in federal court in Texas. Musk and X’s three-claim disparagement suit primarily wants a preliminary and permanent injunction against Media Matters’ report on the alleged placing of corporate ads next to “Pro-Nazi Content.” (Read Elon Musk’s lawsuit over the pro-Nazi ad placement allegations here)

“Media Matters has manipulated the algorithms governing user experience on X to bypass safeguards and create images of X’s largest advertisers’ paid posts adjacent to racist, incendiary content, leaving the false impression that these pairings are anything but what they actually are: manufactured, inorganic, and extraordinarily rare,” the 15-page filing from Texas firms S|L Law PLLC and Stone Hilton PLLC claims, in a backhanded swipe at their own client’s platform protocols.

Enraged by the seemingly damning study by the media watchdog, Musk first lashed out with his legal threats late on November 17. As there was more fallout from the Media Matters’ “As Musk Endorses Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory, X Has Been Placing Ads for Apple, Bravo, IBM, Oracle, and Xfinity Next to Pro-Nazi Content From Its Web” article, Apple, Disney, Comcast, Paramount Global, IBM, Warner Bros. Discovery and others suspended their ad buys and presence on X/Twitter.

It is worth noting that none of the media companies and others actually gave a reason why they paused their ad campaigns on the increasingly chaotic X/Twitter – and certainly one could speculate it had as much to do with Musk’s personal online amplification of antisemitic screech as much as the Pro-Nazi ad placement accusations.

Condemned by the White House last week for that antisemitic amplification retweet, Musk clearly wanted to shift the narrative. First, as more deep pocket advertisers jumped ship, the Tesla/SpaceX boss took to his social media platform to lash out “Many of the largest advertisers are the greatest oppressors of your right to free speech.” Then he swore to take down Media Matters and their so-called “fraudulent attack on our company” while kind of confirming the truth of their research at the same time.

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After Musk threatened late last week to unleash his lawsuit first thing Monday, Media Matters President Angelo Carusone took a swing back. “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,” Carusone said. “Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content we identified. If he does sue us, we will win.” 

Today, after the lawsuit was filed, Carusone added: “This is a frivolous lawsuit meant to bully X’s critics into silence. Media Matters stands behind its reporting and looks forward to winning in court.”

Now that an actual suit has been filed, Musk will have to hand over material on the platform’s algorithms internal ad decision and more, a pulling back of the curtain that could prove to be the make-or-break in the matter.

Coming off a weekend that also saw yet another SpaceX launch end in an explosion, Musk took to X/Twitter repeatedly this morning to take another pre-litigation swipe at Media Matters:

This is not Musk’s first lawsuit against a media watchdog. 

Last summer, X/Twitter sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate for defamation over the group’s reports on the platform’s lack of hate speech guardrails. On November 16, the group filed a motion to dismiss an anti-SLAPP motion last week, arguing that Musk’s platform had “ginned up baseless claims” in taking issue with how CCDH gathered its data.

“Apparently unhappy with how it is faring in the marketplace of ideas, X Corp. asks this court to shut that marketplace down—to punish the CCDH Defendants for their speech and to silence others who might speak up about X Corp. in the future,” the group’s attorneys wrote. “Thus, X Corp. seeks ‘at least tens of millions of dollars’ in damages based on how advertisers reacted to what the CCDH Defendants said about X Corp. in their public reports.”

The erratic Musk has previously threatened legal action against other critics over the years, but didn’t follow through. In September, when the Anti-Defamation League sharply criticized X/Twitter for increasing antisemitic and other hate speech, Musk promised to sue – but never did. The South African billionaire blamed ADL for an advertising decline of 60% on the social media platform he bought for over $44 billion last year.

Musk came up again Monday at the White House, which reiterated its criticism of his antisemitic retweet:

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