In a lawsuit filed Monday night, Elon Musk’s X is alleging a report on content moderation from Media Matters maliciously scared off advertisers like Apple and IBM. Last week, the media watchdog reported advertisements from major brands were appearing next to antisemitic content on the platform. But Musk may have scared advertisers himself as the billionaire shared his controversial thoughts on Jews last week.
The lawsuit alleges Media Matters manipulated their report by following accounts on both ends of the extreme: only following white-nationalist accounts and those of major brands. According to X, just two accounts out of 500 million users on the platform saw anti-semitic content next to Apple advertisements: Media Matters and one other user. Those internal numbers can’t be independently verified.
“This is a frivolous lawsuit meant to bully X’s critics into silence,” said Media Matters President Angelo Carusone in a statement. “Media Matters stands behind its reporting and looks forward to winning in court.”
Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony, and even NBC Universal – the former company of X CEO Linda Yaccarino – have all pulled advertising off of X. Yaccarino, a longtime ad executive at NBC brought on to act as the ‘adult in the room’ for major brands, is caught in the crosshairs of Elon’s latest crisis. The CEO is standing by Musk, despite Tesla investors calling for his suspension, and the highest office in America, the White House, condemning Musk’s “antisemitic and racist hate.”
“When you’re this consequential, there will be detractors and fabricated distractions, but we’re unwavering in our mission. Thank you for standing with us,” said Yaccarino in a post on X Monday night.
Yaccarino told employees the Media Matters report was misleading and manipulated at an all-hands meeting immediately following the lawsuit filing, according to Forbes. As for antisemitism on X, she said “There’s no place for it anywhere on this platform, anywhere in the world, and we’re doing our best to keep fighting it at X.” Yaccarino also emphasized the financial pressure on X at this moment, asking employees to “by all means, put your heads together to bring new revenue into the company.”
X alleges Media Matters conducted its report “to tarnish X’s reputation by associating it with racist content.” But X is well-known for hosting controversial content. Just last week, Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America,” an antisemitic letter explaining the Al-Qaeda leader’s reasoning for 9/11, went viral on the platform. One tweet on the letter received more than 40 million views. From a business perspective, advertisers want more assurance that their promotions don’t appear alongside such content.
At this point, it’s unclear whether Media Matters report spooked sponsors or whether it was Musk himself. Last week the Tesla CEO endorsed a white supremacist conspiracy theory accusing Jewish groups of hating white people while their real enemy should be minorities and immigrants. Musk replied to the tweet saying the American Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, “cannot, by their own tenets, criticize the minority groups who are their primary threat.”