Following last week’s devastating exodus of advertisers involving some of the world’s largest media companies, Elon Musk, owner of X, has filed a lawsuit against the progressive watchdog group Media Matters over its analysis highlighting anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi content on X — a report that appears to play into An important role in the huge and very disruptive brand revolution.
The lawsuit filed Monday accuses Media Matters of misrepresenting how ads were likely to appear alongside extremist content on X, alleging that the group’s testing methodology was not representative of how real users experience the site.
“Media Matters intentionally and maliciously manufactured side-by-side images depicting advertiser posts on US District Court for the Northern District of Texas: “The Experience on the Platform.” “Media Matters designed both these images and its resulting media strategy to drive advertisers off the platform and destroy X Corp.”
The lawsuit simultaneously names Media Matters and Eric Hananuki, its chief investigative reporter, as defendants. It calls for an injunction forcing Media Matters to remove its analysis from its website and accuses Media Matters of interfering with X’s contracts with advertisers, disrupting their economic relationships and unlawfully disparaging X.
In a statement Monday evening, Media Matters President Angelo Carosone pledged to defend the group against the lawsuit.
“This is a frivolous lawsuit designed to silence critics of X,” Carosone said. “Media Matters stands by its reporting and looks forward to prevailing in court.”
On Monday evening, X CEO Linda Yaccarino defended the social media site.
“If you know me, you know I’m committed to truth and fairness,” Yaccarino said to publish. “This is the truth. No real user on X saw ads for IBM, Comcast or Oracle next to the content in a Media Matters article.
After the lawsuit was filed, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton came forward, announcing that he would conduct an investigation into Media Matters to determine whether its examination of content on X might constitute “potentially fraudulent activity” under Texas law. He also described the group as a “far-left organization” that “would like nothing more than to limit freedom by limiting participation in the public square.”
A number of major companies have halted their advertising on the platform after Musk backed the anti-Semitic claim that Jewish communities drive “anti-white hatred.”
Musk had it Excited A lawsuit was filed on Saturday after major brands including Disney, Paramount and Warner Bros. halted their release. Discovery, CNN’s parent company, ran its ads on X. Musk threatened a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters and “all those who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company.” “Including, he said in a follow-up post, “their board, their donors, the dark money network, all of them…”
In a preview of Musk’s complaint claimed that the result from the test would never occur in the real world.
Technology and First Amendment legal experts widely described X’s complaint on Monday as weak and opportunistic, filed in a court that Musk likely believed would side with him.
“It’s one of those lawsuits that was filed more for symbolism than substance — as reflected in how hollow the allegations really are, and in where Musk has chosen to file them, singling out the very conservative Upstate District of Texas despite the absence of any logical reasoning. It’s about the dispute, said Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor and CNN legal analyst. “The choice of venue is best described as an attempt to support a claim that is weak on the merits by a body that is likely to be sympathetic even to weak claims.”
“This sounds like a press release, not a court filing,” he said. John Donovan, professor of journalism and emerging media studies at Boston University. “X admits the ads were shown next to hateful content, but says they were ‘rare.’ This is the same strategy used by advertisers that led YouTube to remove political content in 2017.
The decision to file a lawsuit in Texas may have been intended to circumvent laws passed by California, the District of Columbia and dozens of states prohibiting frivolous lawsuits aimed at stifling public criticism, said Ken White, a First Amendment advocate and criminal defense attorney based in Los Angeles. .
“X filed this in federal court in Texas to avoid enforcement of the anti-SLAPP law,” White said on X’s Alternative BlueSky podcast, using the acronym that stands for so-called “strategic lawsuits against public participation.”
In the federal appeals court that oversees Texas, anti-SLAPP laws don’t apply, White added.
“X’s purpose is to harass, abuse, and maximize the cost of litigation, and anti-SLAPP laws conflict with that purpose,” he wrote.
The case was transferred Monday to District Judge Mark Pittman, a Donald Trump appointee who was previously at the center of some of the country’s biggest legal battles. Last November, Pittman blocked President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt, one of two such decisions to reach the Supreme Court.
Last August, Pittman ruled that a Texas law prohibiting 18- to 20-year-olds from carrying handguns in public is unconstitutional and inconsistent with the Second Amendment and U.S. history.
Contributing: CNN’s John Passantino and Dan Berman.