Elon Musk’s X — the social media company formerly known as Twitter — filed a lawsuit against Media Matters for America on Monday for defamation after the media watchdog group reported that the platform had been placing ads for major brands next to pro-Hitler and white nationalist content.
What does the lawsuit say?
The complaint, which was filed in a federal court in Texas, alleges that Media Matters engaged in a “smear campaign” by "knowingly and maliciously” manufacturing images that show advertising for companies including Apple, Bravo, IBM, Oracle and Xfinity placed next to content supporting Nazis.
Those companies, as well as other major advertisers including Disney, Discovery and Warner Bros., paused advertising on X last week after Media Matters published a pair of reports about the ad placements.
“This is a frivolous lawsuit meant to bully X’s critics into silence,” Media Matters president Angelo Carusone said in a statement. “Media Matters stands behind its reporting and looks forward to winning in court.”
How did we get here?
Musk threatened to file a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters late Friday, saying its reports were an “attempt to undermine freedom of speech and mislead advertisers.”
“Not a single authentic user on X saw IBM’s, Comcast’s, or Oracle’s ads next to the content in Media Matters’ article,” Linda Yaccarino, X’s chief executive, wrote in a post announcing the lawsuit on Monday afternoon. “Stand with X.”
The company was already facing an advertiser revolt after Musk publicly endorsed an antisemitic trope posted on X suggesting Jewish people are supporting the “hordes of minorities” who are “flooding” into the United States to replace white people. That conspiracy theory was the same one that motivated the gunman to carry out the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in 2018.
Musk shared the post, and added a comment: “You have said the actual truth.”
Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter/X: A brief timeline
• October 2022: Musk buys Twitter for $44 billion and lays off hundreds of employees, including those overseeing content moderation and user safety.
• November 2022: Musk reinstates former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, which had been suspended since shortly after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.
• November 2022: Musk announces a plan to offer verified badges to any user who pays an $8 monthly fee, making harder if not impossible to authenticate accounts for celebrities, journalists or government officials.
• December 2022: Musk bans @ElonJet, a Twitter account that monitored the movements of his private jet in real time, saying it had violated the company’s doxxing policy.
• December 2022: Musk runs a Twitter poll asking whether he should step down as the head of Twitter, vowing he would abide by its results. After yes votes win, Musk tweets: “I will resign as CEO as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job!”
• May 2023: Musk announces that NBCUniversal executive Linda Yaccarino has been hired as the new CEO of Twitter.
• July 2023: Musk rebrands Twitter as X, replete with a new logo and X.com URL.
• August 2023: Yaccarino tells CNBC that the company was working to reduce the risk of advertisers being placed next to toxic content.
Yahoo Finance reported Monday that advertising executives are urging Yaccarino, the former chair of global advertising at NBCU, to resign from X over Musk’s antisemitic remarks.
But Yaccarino says she is committed to staying at the embattled social media company even as advertisers flee.
“Our work is critical, but it’s not always easy,” Yaccarino said in a note to staff Sunday night. “What we’re doing matters, which means it naturally invites criticism from those who do not share our beliefs.”
“I believe deeply in our vision, our team, and our community,” she posted Monday morning on the platform. “I’m also deeply committed to the truth and there is no other team on earth working as hard as the teams at X.”