Media Matters for America, a nonprofit watchdog organization best known for its targeting Fox News, disputed Elon Musk’s claims in a lawsuit that he used a bad faith campaign to maliciously scare away major advertisers. X and reserves the right to counter-sue the tycoon.
Talk to FortuneThe organization’s president and president refuted Musk’s allegations that MMFA manipulated and manipulated the platform’s algorithm to fabricate a set of results showing that X was dangerous for brands by featuring their ads alongside neo-Nazi content. In response, IBM led a wave of defections of high-profile advertisers and the White House issued a rare and scathing criticism of Musk’s conduct.
“We have not cherry-picked our data,” Angelo Carusone said in an interview, saying any search for the #WhiteNationalism hashtag on X would yield similar results. “The filters they claim to have do not work as they claim. »
The MMFA president is now weighing his legal options in response, including whether to retaliate against Musk’s team of lawyers. Carusone, who describes the lawsuit filed Monday as “frivolous“, declared that his organization would reserve all legal avenues to defend itself. He said that could include a possible lawsuit against Musk for trying to silence protected speech, what in legal terms is called a anti-SLAPP lawsuit.
X is not the only social media site to feature dangerous content, Carusone readily concedes, but it is an exception in lacking some of the most basic safeguards for content moderation.
“Elon Musk gutted the brand safety division, it doesn’t exist functionally,” he said. “Yes, these kinds of things appear everywhere, but other platforms have mechanisms and internal controls to respond to them,” he said. “Whereas X, on the other hand, not only lacks these controls, but as evidenced by the behavior of Elon Musk himself, the rot seems to go all the way to the top.”
Split-second court opens Monday, X Corp will file a thermonuclear lawsuit against Media Matters and EVERYONE who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company. pic.twitter.com/55vl7PspaQ
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 18, 2023
By its own account, MMFA is not an impartial watchdog organization, claiming its mission is to monitor, analyze and correct “conservative misinformation in American media.” This places it in a similar category to pressure groups like CAMERA and HonestReporting, which also analyzes media coverage from the perspective of a particular agenda.
Nonetheless, Musk went straight for hyperbole on Monday by calling the MMFA “apure evil.” He pledged to bring not just any lawsuit but a “thermonuclear” one to this after the nonprofit’s report sparked a exodus of advertisers.
Notable departures include heavyweights like Apple, one of X’s biggest clients, as well as other star stocks like SonyWarner Bros. Discovery and Paramount. Tellingly, the CEO of Linda Yaccarino could not even prevent his former employer, NBCUniversal, from withdrawing his place despite his ties of more than ten years with the Comcast subsidiary company.
Inconsistent free speech policies
This critical report, and not the first from the MMFA regarding X, proved so combustible precisely because Musk had sympathized just a day earlier, with what many considered a bigoted message accusing Jews of hating whites and perpetuating the theory of the Great Replacement. This claims that ethnic minorities are actively conspiring to marginalize the dominant white population of the United States.
I just did a search with the hashtag #.heilhitler and in less than a minute I saw an ad for an official German government page. @MakeitinGermany served alongside a post celebrating Hitler pic.twitter.com/L9ZMO9c0lM
– Steven Monacelli (@stevanzetti) November 21, 2023
Since this theory played a key role in the deadly mass shootings of Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue and blacks at a Buffalo supermarket, even the White House found it necessary to censure Musk for his ill-advised approval.
In a likely move intended to squash any new speculation Musk might entertain. latent anti-Semitic tendenciesthe owner of thedecolonization” in relation to Israel’s current siege of Gaza amounts to a call for banned genocide.
“He’s not really a supporter of free speech. If he had been, his position on this would have been much more coherent,” Carusone argued. “I think he was trying to protect himself from criticism by doing something performative.”
This arbitrary tendency to develop policies on the fly partly explains why advertisers are rightly so nervous, believes the MMFA president. Asked about Musk’s unilateral decision during Pride Month that calling anyone “cis” over X could be interpreted as an insult punishable with a suspension, Carusone admitted it was not an accident. “What I do know is that he is engaging in acts of malicious cruelty for no reason against people who clearly have much less power than he does.”
I don’t always say that I agree with anti-Semitic content…
…but when I do, I wait a weekend and then sue the media for claiming that my site reinforces anti-Semitic content.
– John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) November 21, 2023
Carusone instead accuses Musk of intentionally wrapping his increasingly conservative worldview with lofty principles, like defending the First Amendment, to avoid any consequences.
“Frivolous” lawsuit filed in jurisdiction favorable to Musk
Monday, Musk filed a complaint against MMFA in the U.S. District Court of Texas, seeking unspecified damages and specifically demanding a jury trial in this deeply red jurisdiction.
The legal strategy, however, is somewhat unconventional. X operates out of San Francisco and is legally incorporated in Nevada, so one would expect the trial to be filed in one or the other of these two States.
Still, Musk was looking for a state that just so happens to be home to both countries’ headquarters. You’re here And EspaceXjustifying this choice by claiming that the campaign also affected businesses and users located in the Republican-led Lone Star State, although this argument could apply to virtually any jurisdiction in the country.
Fraud is punishable by civil and criminal penalties pic.twitter.com/BdC5Zfr1XM
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 21, 2023
On Monday, Musk also reposted a statement from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton saying his taxpayer-funded office would launch a criminal investigation into the MMFA. Paxton himself is a controversial figure, impeached but not removed by the Texas Legislature in September on 16 charges. bribery and corruption.
“At the same time Elon Musk calls himself a champion of free speech, he is urging state attorneys general to sue me. “It’s like telling the government that they have to punish someone for something they don’t like,” Carusone retorted.
Neither Elon Musk nor Fortune for comment.
The MMFA president vowed that his nonprofit would in no way back down or be intimidated by Musk’s legal threats and would continue to advocate for greater brand safety regardless of the civil lawsuit.
“He can scapegoat a research subject all he wants,” he said, “but fundamentally the problem is with him and X, not us.”