Elon Musk's X Corporation is suing the nonprofit Media Matters for kicking advertisers off the platform formerly known as Twitter after it found it rife with anti-Semitic content.
In a lawsuit filed in US federal court in Texas, X accuses the organization of “fooling the algorithm into thinking that Media Matters wanted to see both hateful content and large advertising content.” Apple, Comcast, NBCUniversal and IBM were among the high-profile brands that suspended advertising on X last week after Media Matters announced it had discovered ads showing pro-Nazi content.
The promotional speech also came after Musk endorsed an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
“This is a frivolous lawsuit designed to silence X's critics,” Media Matters president Angelo Carusone said in response to an AFP inquiry.
“Media Affairs stands behind its coverage and looks forward to winning in court.” The White House condemned Musk, the world's richest man, for “concerning promotion” of anti-Semitism.
The White House reacted to Musk's post, in which the controversial Tesla and SpaceX mogul responded to an anti-Semitic post on X by saying, “You spoke the real truth.”
The original post is widely seen as a reference to a long-standing false conspiracy theory among white supremacists that Jews have a secret plan to bring illegal immigrants into the United States in order to shift US demographics away from the white majority.
Most famously, the idea was promoted by the man who carried out a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 that killed 11 people.
Referring to Musk's post, White House spokesman Andrew Bates said it was “unacceptable” to repeat such a “horrific lie.” The lawsuit filed Monday doesn't mention Musk endorsing the conspiracy theory, instead blaming recent advertising woes on media issues.
“Media Matters knowingly and maliciously produced side-by-side images depicting advertisers' posts on X Corp.'s social media platforms alongside neo-Nazi and white nationalist occult content and then portrayed these manufactured images as if they were typical X users. experience,” the lawsuit said.
X accused Media Matters of tricking its algorithm into only featuring extreme, fabulous content on well-known accounts with well-known brands.
The result was a channel “fine-tuned” to create the kind of side-by-side ad-content pairing that alienated X advertisers.
Since then, on Tuesday, Musk has declared that “media stuff is pure evil,” in a post to his 163 million followers.
X asked the court to order Media Matters to pay unspecified monetary damages and to cancel the account.
In the year since taking over Twitter, now rebranded as X, Musk has lifted content moderation, reinstated previously banned extremist accounts and allowed users to purchase account verification, helping them profit from viral — but often inaccurate — posts.
An X executive told AFP that he had filed the accounts referred by Media Matters and they would no longer be able to make money from the ads.
According to the executive authorities, the posts will be called “sensitive media”.
Another controversy followed the lawsuit, where X failed to pay a $610,500 fine for not answering questions about how it prevented and combated child sexual exploitation and sexual extortion.
In October, X was fined for failing to respond to a legal notice demanding the tech giants disclose how they prevent and manage the spread of illegal material on their platforms.
Although the breach required payment within 28 days, the eSafety Commissioner's Office confirmed on Wednesday that X was unable to repay the debt.
“Twitter/X was issued a $610,500 infringement notice for failing to comply with a non-periodic reporting notice issued in February of this year,” the spokesperson said.
“Twitter/X did not report the breach within the required time frame and eSafety is now considering the next steps.
While Google and X failed to adequately respond to a number of questions in the legal notice, X's non-compliance appeared to be more serious.
eSafety said sections were left completely blank, with X also providing answers that were incomplete and/or inaccurate.
Questions also remain unanswered about the number of security and public policy staff still employed by Twitter/X following Musk's October 2022 acquisition and job cuts.
Google has also issued a formal warning for providing a number of general answers to specific information and “providing aggregated information when asking questions about specific services.”