Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, has recently filed a lawsuit accusing a news organization of defamation. The lawsuit stems from claims made by Media Matters, which published an article displaying screenshots of major companies’ ads next to antisemitic content. IBM and Apple have already pulled their ads from X, adding to the company’s existing struggles with advertisers. Musk himself has faced criticism for seemingly endorsing antisemitic views.
In response to the article, Musk expressed his anger and vowed to file a lawsuit against Media Matters and those involved in the “fraudulent attack” on his company. However, upon examining the lawsuit, it appears that X’s claims may not hold up. The company argues that Media Matters “manufactured” or “contrived” the images, suggesting that they were not genuine. But X’s own CEO, Linda Yaccarino, contradicted this claim by stating that only two users had seen Apple’s ad next to the hateful content.
While Media Matters did create conditions for the ads to appear by using an older account with no ad filter and following hateful accounts and corporate advertisers, the ads did undeniably appear next to the offensive content. X’s lawyers argue that these accounts were known for producing extreme content, yet X did not demonetize them until after Media Matters pointed them out. Thus, X’s lawsuit fails to prove that the images were manufactured or fraudulent.
Moderating hateful content is a challenging task for social networks, as it constantly evolves in the form of hashtags, usernames, and slang. Yaccarino had previously claimed that brands were protected from being associated with offensive content, but Media Matters’ findings prove otherwise. The incident shown by Media Matters may not represent the average user’s experience, but it demonstrates a possibility on X that advertisers are understandably unwilling to risk. Even companies not mentioned in the article, such as Lionsgate, Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount, and Sony, pulled their ads from X due to Media Matters’ manipulation.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District Court of Texas, seeks $100,000 in damages and a jury trial. However, the likelihood of either outcome is uncertain.