What to know about Elon Musk’s feud with Media Matters

What to know about Elon Musk’s feud with Media Matters

Billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk made good on a promise late Monday to file a lawsuit against Media Matters for America, the progressive watchdog he has been publicly feuding with for days.

The federal suit, filed in Texas, comes on the heels of a Media Matters report that outlined how X — the platform formerly known as Twitter, which Musk now owns — is placing advertising next to hateful content. It also comes as Musk himself is under fire for antisemitic activity on his own account.

The Media Matters report sparked an exodus of advertisers from X, with Musk’s lawsuit marking just the latest controversy during his chaotic time steering one of the internet’s most prominent information platforms.

Here’s what to know about the ongoing feud between Musk and Media Matters:

Media Matters highlighted ads placed next to hateful content on X

The Media Matters report, published last week, pointed to ads from major companies who have long marketed themselves on the platform, including Apple, IBM and Oracle.

The watchdog provided screenshots from searches on X and said it had also found advertisements from Amazon, NBA Mexico, NBCUniversal and others next to white nationalist and other hateful hashtags.

Media Matters noted a recent effort by X CEO Linda Yaccarino to woo major advertisers to spend on the platform, after some had raised concerns over major changes Musk has implemented to its content moderation and community guidelines policies.

The report outlined how Musk himself has come under scrutiny for antisemitic comments and posts on X, and listed several far-right users and accounts that had previously been banned from the platform but have since been reinstated under Musk.

Musk has repeatedly said he views X as a strict free speech space, which has raised questions and concerns among advertisers about what type of content their products might be associated with or displayed against.

The report, and Musk’s rhetoric, triggered an exodus of advertisers

After the Media Matters report published, leading companies such as IBM and NBCUniversal — and its parent company, Comcast — said they stopped advertising on X once they learned their ads were appearing alongside material supporting Nazis.

Other blue-chip companies, such as Apple, cited Musk’s own rhetoric on X as a factor in their decision to pause advertising on the platform.

The billionaire sparked outrage last week after he responded to a user on the platform who claimed “Jewish communities have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.”

“You have said the actual truth,” Musk replied to the user. He wrote in another post, “The [Anti-Defamation League] unjustly attacks the majority of the West, despite the majority of the West supporting the Jewish people and Israel.”

Since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, groups that track hate-based incidents have been warning of an increased threat of violence against both Jews and Muslims, as hateful language on social media has spread rapidly online.

In addition to owning the platform, Musk is perhaps one of its most influential users, carrying more than 163 million followers and frequently making several posts per day, each getting thousands of interactions.

Musk files ‘thermonuclear lawsuit’ against Media Matters

Musk responded to the onslaught of criticism and advertiser boycotts by labeling the Media Matters report a “fraudulent attack” on his company and threatening to sue the watchdog.

“The split second court opens on Monday, X Corp will be filing a thermonuclear lawsuit against Media Matters and ALL those who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company,” he wrote Friday night.

He made good on that promise late Monday, filing a suit in U.S. District Court in Texas alleging Media Matters had misrepresented how content appears on the platform “as if they were what typical X users experience on the platform.”

The suit calls out by name Eric Hananoki, the author of the Media Matters report, saying he and Media Matters “could have produced a fair, accurate account of users’ interactions with advertisements on X via basic reporting: following real users, documenting the actual, organic production of content and advertisement pairings.”

“Had it done so, however, it would not have produced the outcome Media Matters so desperately desired, which was to tarnish X’s reputation by associating it with racist content,” the lawsuit reads.

In a statement to The Hill, Media Matters President Angelo Carusone dismissed Musk’s suit.

“This is a frivolous lawsuit meant to bully X’s critics into silence,” Carusone said. “Media Matters stands behind its reporting and looks forward to winning in court.”

Musk’s suit against Media Matters cheered on the right

Since purchasing X last year and taking over as the platform’s visionary, Musk has often parroted or appeared to influence thinking on the far right of U.S. politics.

His posts often berate so-called “woke” ideology and boost political themes popular amongst conservatives. He also welcomed former Fox News host Tucker Carlson onto the platform after his ouster from the cable network.

Criticism of mainstream media outlets has been another major theme of Musk’s public posts, and his suit against Media Matters, an entity frequently under fire from conservative media, is part of that broader battle.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said this week his office would open an investigation into the watchdog following the filing of Musk’s suit.

“We are examining the issue closely to ensure that the public has not been deceived by the schemes of radical left-wing organizations who would like nothing more than to limit freedom by reducing participation in the public square,” Paxton said.

Musk’s lawsuit lists a litany of grievances against Media Matters, some of which predate last week’s report. It argues Media Matters has “for the last several years … falsely portrayed Twitter, now X, as a risky, unsafe platform for advertisers.”

The suit asks a judge to compel Media Matters to take down its reporting on X, a move legal experts say would be unlikely.

Rep. Monica De La Cruz (R-Texas) was among the conservative voices cheering Musk’s lawsuit and Paxton’s investigation. She said Media Matters should focus its ire on Democratic politicians whom she accused of antisemitism.

“If anti-semitism actually mattered, then they would be covering [Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib] and the anti-semetic comments that she has made,” she said on “The Benny Show” this week.

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