Elon Musk’s social media company X has accused Media Matters for America of “maliciously” trying to drive away its advertisers by reporting that ads for major brands including IBM and Apple were running next to pro-Nazi content.
X, formerly known as Twitter, claimed the media watchdog group kick-started a “blatant smear campaign” by publishing almost 20 articles against the social media platform and Mr Musk earlier in November.
The report by Media Matters followed a flurry of anti-Semitic and other hate speech on X, some of which Mr Musk himself reposted, eliciting outrage and alienating advertisers. Criticism of X and its owner led to a mass exodus of brands, with Apple, IBM, Comcast, Walt Disney and the European Commission either suspending or halting ad spending on the platform.
Media Matters is accused in the complaint of illegally interfering with X’s contracts with advertisers and making malicious and false statements that it’s intentionally placing ads near anti-Semitic posts.
“Media Matters designed both these images and its resulting media strategy to drive advertisers from the platform and destroy X Corp.,” the company said in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Texas.
Angelo Carusone, the President of Media Matters, said in response: “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,” Mr Carusone added.
Mr Musk’s company is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a court order directing Media Matters to immediately take down an article posted last week. Mr Musk hinted in an X post that he will file more lawsuits.
Mr Musk had agreed with a post last week that said Jewish people hold a “dialectical hatred” of White people, drawing fire from several Tesla investors as well as the White House. Ross Gerber, co-founder and CEO of wealth management firm Gerber Kawasaki Inc., said Thursday on CNBC that Mr Musk’s outbursts were “destroying the brand.”
The 52-year-old entrepreneur is the world’s richest person and the chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., in addition to his ownership of X. He is famous for his provocative posts, including one in which he said he had the funding to take Tesla private, spurring a shareholder lawsuit he ultimately won. But his latest forays into religion and race have triggered an especially fierce response.
Among those defending Mr Musk was hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, who said on X that Mr Musk isn’t an anti-Semite and that “the world is a vastly better place because of him.”