Elon Musk, social media company, X (previously known as Twitter), filed a lawsuit against Media Matters for America and one of its employees on Monday. The lawsuit is in response to an investigative report by the progressive watchdog organization, which claimed that the X app featured Nazi content alongside ads from big companies.
At the same time, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced an investigation into Media Matters for possible fraudulent activity. Paxton stated that they are closely looking into the issue to make sure the public hasn’t been misled by left-wing organizations aiming to limit freedom by reducing participation in public discussions. Musk shared Paxton’s statement on the X app.
Elon Musk X Controversy
On X, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey mentioned that his team is investigating the situation. Both Bailey and Paxton, who are Republicans, are involved in the matter.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, is asking for unspecified damages. Additionally, it requests the court to order Media Matters to take down the article.
Angelo Carusone, the President of Media Matters, stated that the website will defend itself. In a statement, he called the lawsuit frivolous and an attempt to intimidate critics of X into silence. Carusone expressed confidence in Media Matters’ reporting and looks forward to winning in court.
The legal action marks a significant intensification of the conflict involving Musk, his detractors, and X’s troubled dealings with advertisers. Last Wednesday, Musk sparked controversy by posting comments on X supporting a conspiracy theory widely viewed as antisemitic.
The following day, Media Matters released a report alleging that Nazi content had appeared alongside advertisements from Apple, IBM, and other companies including Comcast and NBCUniversal have temporarily halted their spending on X.
X Lawsuit Unveils Allegations of False App Description
According to the lawsuit, X claims that Media Matters’ description of the app is false because their article doesn’t accurately represent what regular users actually see.
The lawsuit states, “Media Matters knowingly and maliciously manufactured side-by-side images depicting advertisers’ posts on X Corp. social media platform beside Neo-Nazi and white-nationalist fringe content and then portrayed these manufactured images as if they were what typical X users experience on the platform.”
The lawsuit claims that the goal was to damage X’s advertising revenue.
Media Matters, a nonprofit site established in 2004 by David Brock, a former right-wing journalist turned Democrat in the 1990s, currently works as a political consultant and commentator.
The legal action also includes Eric Hananoki, a senior investigative reporter at Media Matters and the article’s author, as a defendant. Hananoki has not yet responded to a request for comment.
The lawsuit puts forward several legal assertions. Firstly, it alleges that Media Matters deliberately disrupted contracts between X and its advertisers. Secondly, it contends that the website damaged X’s reputation with untrue statements, doing so with obvious malice and awareness of their falsehood. Thirdly, it claims that Media Matters unlawfully disrupted business relationships.
X Lawsuit: Exploring Free Speech, Defamation & Content Issues
According to the interpretation of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech by the Supreme Court, public figure plaintiffs must demonstrate actual malice by the other parties to succeed in claims like defamation.
Daxton Stewart, a journalism professor at Texas Christian University and a lawyer, expressed that he considers the lawsuit to be “frivolous.” He noted that although the lawsuit claims to protect free speech, it could actually have the opposite effect by penalizing a website.
Stewart pointed out a significant issue with the First Amendment, stating in an email, “The huge problem is the First Amendment,” Stewart wrote in an email. “They’re asking a court to order the takedown of clearly protected commentary, and trying to escape the obvious First Amendment issues with that by cloaking it in contract interference language that suggests advertisers left the platform because of a Media Matters report rather than, say, their own judgment at seeing what Twitter has become.”
He added, “It’s utter nonsense, of course, but that’s the way these self-described free speech warriors operate today. The goal is to chill free speech, and we can only hope it doesn’t work.”
Both Musk and X acknowledge the presence of Nazi content on the app. Musk has defended its existence, citing it as an expression of free speech. In a statement he shared on Friday, Musk clarified that out of the nine posts written by Media Matters, only one violated X’s content policies. He mentioned that X had restricted the reach of that particular post.
The posts highlighted by Media Matters featured a Holocaust denial, a quote about truth attributed to Adolf Hitler alongside a photo of him, and a post asserting that the rise of Nazism was a “spiritual awakening.”
Elon Musk’s social media platform, X, faces a complex legal battle with Media Matters for America, involving allegations of false representation, defamation, and business disruption. The lawsuit has prompted investigations and intensified conflicts, raising concerns about free speech and its impact on the platform’s advertisers. The controversy underscores the challenges in navigating issues of content moderation, public figures, and legal interpretations in the realm of social media.