Elon Musk (X Corp fka Twitter) Sues Media Matters, Alleges “Systematically Manipulated the X User Experience to Defame X”
Complaint: “Media Matters knowingly and maliciously manufactured side-by-side images depicting advertisers’ posts on X Corp.’s 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. Media Matters designed both these images and its resulting media strategy to drive advertisers from the platform and destroy X Corp.”
Media Matters is alleged to have manipulated its feed to create the false impression that X is showing advertiser ads next to ‘Nazi’ content in order to get the advertisers to drop X. Elon Musk tweeted that he would file a “thermonuclear lawsuit” when court opened today.
If Media Matters did that, it would be no surprise, as disrupting advertisers has been its favorite tactics to damage political opponents.
— William A. Jacobson (@wajacobson) November 18, 2023
Media Matter President Angelo Carusone, who pioneered the advertiser pressure tactic first against Glenn Beck before he was at Media Matters and then parlayed it into promotions after going after Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and others, scoffed at the prospective lawsuit:
Musk is no free speech advocate. He’s a bully threatening meritless lawsuits in attempt to silence reporting that he confirmed is accurate. Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content Media Matters identified. If he does sue us, we will win.
— Angelo Carusone (@GoAngelo) November 18, 2023
Court opened today, and no lawsuit had been filed, leading to a Media Matters staffer mocking Musk and bragging about how more adversisers were dropping.
Turns out that what Elon Musk meants by "thermonuclear lawsuit" is that he'll tweet "Media Matters is evil" half a dozen times and then share a bunch of my pre-transition photos. Masterful gambit, sir.
— Ari Drennen (@AriDrennen) November 20, 2023
BREAKING: Ubisoft is the latest company to halt advertising on X, following Apple, Disney, NBC Universal, and others.
Media Matters is tracking the full list here: https://t.co/5UiV0hg265
— Ari Drennen (@AriDrennen) November 20, 2023
Well, X just sued.
Here is the Complaint.
MORE TO FOLLOW
From the Complaint (emphasis in original):
1. Defendant Media Matters for America (“Media Matters”) is a self-proclaimed media watchdog that decided it would not let the truth get in the way of a story it wanted to publish about X Corp. Looking to portray X’s social networking platform as being dominated by “white nationalist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories,” Media Matters knowingly and maliciously manufactured side-by-side images depicting advertisers’ posts on X Corp.’s 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. Media Matters designed both these images and its resulting media strategy to drive advertisers from the platform and destroy X Corp.
7. Undeterred by the truth, Media Matters has opted for new tactics in its campaign to drive advertisers from X. Media Matters has manipulated the algorithms governing the user experience on X to bypass safeguards and create images of X’s largest advertisers’ paid posts adjacent to racist, incendiary content, leaving the false impression that these pairings are anything but what they actually are: manufactured, inorganic, and extraordinarily rare.
8. Media Matters executed this plot in multiple steps, as X’s internal investigations have revealed. First, Media Matters accessed accounts that had been active for at least 30 days, bypassing X’s ad filter for new users. Media Matters then exclusively followed a small subset of users consisting entirely of accounts in one of two categories: those known to produce extreme, fringe content, and accounts owned by X’s big-name advertisers. The end result was a feed precision-designed by Media Matters for a single purpose: to produce side-by-side ad/content placements that it could screenshot in an effort to alienate advertisers.
9. But this activity still was not enough to create the pairings of advertisements and content that Media Matters aimed to produce.
10. Media Matters therefore resorted to endlessly scrolling and refreshing its unrepresentative, hand-selected feed, generating between 13 and 15 times more advertisements per hour than viewed by the average X user repeating this inauthentic activity until it finally received pages containing the result it wanted: controversial content next to X’s largest advertisers’ paid posts.
11. Media Matters omitted mentioning any of this in a report published on November 16, 2023 that displayed instances Media Matters “found” on X of advertisers’ paid posts featured next to Neo-Nazi and white-nationalist content. Nor did Media Matters otherwise provide any context regarding the forced, inauthentic nature and extraordinary rarity of these pairings.
12. However, relying on the specious narrative propagated by Media Matters, the advertisers targeted took these pairings to be anything but rare and inorganic, with all but one of the companies featured in the Media Matters piece withdrawing all ads from X, including Apple, Comcast, NBCUniversal, and IBM—some of X’s largest advertisers. Indeed, in pulling all advertising from X in response to this intentionally deceptive report, IBM called the pairings an “entirely unacceptable situation.”2 Only Oracle did not withdraw its ads.
13. The truth bore no resemblance to Media Matters’ narrative. In fact, IBM’s, Comcast’s, and Oracle’s paid posts appeared alongside the fringe content cited by Media Matters for only one viewer (out of more than 500 million) on all of X: Media Matters. Not a single authentic user of the X platform saw IBM’s, Comcast’s, or Oracle’s ads next to that content, which
Media Matters achieved only through its manipulation of X’s algorithms as described above. And in Apple’s case, only two out of more than 500 million active users saw its ad appear alongside the fringe content cited in the article—at least one of which was Media Matters.
14. 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. So instead, Media Matters chose to maliciously misrepresent the X experience with the intention of harming X and its business.
While Media Matters in Carusone’s statement asserted that Musk admitted the Media Matters reports were true, the Complaint alleges otherwise:
25. On November 16, 2023, Media Matters published a false, defamatory, and misleading article with the headline, “X has been placing ads for Apple, Bravo, IBM, Oracle, and Xfinity3 next to pro-Nazi content,” claiming that X was responsible for anti-Semitic content being paired with X’s advertisers’ paid posts.4 This statement was not true, and Media Matters knew it. As explained below and displayed in an X internal review, this title is false in that Media Matters itself—not X—was responsible for placement of the content it identified through its willful exploitation of X’s user features—a result it specifically intended to bring about. X in fact has many default safeguards that prevent the platform from displaying content in the manner artificially achieved by Defendant.
26. Further, in the body of the piece, Media Matters falsely claims that it “recently found ads for Apple, Bravo, Oracle, Xfinity, and IBM next to posts that tout Hitler and his Nazi Party on X.”5 Media Matters did not find pairings that X passively allowed on the platform. Media Matters created these pairings in secrecy, to manufacture the harmful perception that X is at best an incompetent content moderator (a harmful accusation for any social media platform), or even worse that X was somehow indifferent or even encouraging to Nazi and racist ideology.
The Complaint goes into even more detail as to the alleged plot, using X’s internal ability to analyze user conduct on the platform:
28. X’s internal user data tells the story of just how far Media Matters went to manufacture an inorganic user experience strictly aimed at creating an interaction between controversial content and big-name advertisers that was seen only by the Media Matters account and then published broadly.
29. First, Media Matters set out on their attempt to evade X’s content filters for new users by specifically using an account that had been in existence for more than thirty days.
30. Next, Media Matters set its account to follow only 30 users (far less than the average number of accounts followed by a typical active user, 219), severely limiting the amount and type of content featured on its feed. All of these users were either already known for posting controversial content or were accounts for X’s advertisers. That is, 100% of the accounts Media Matters followed were either fringe accounts or were accounts for national large brands. In all, this functioned as an attempt to flood the Media Matters account with content only from national brands and fringe figures, tricking the algorithm into thinking Media Matters wanted to view both hateful content and content from large advertisers.
31. Even this did not produce Media Matters’ intended result. An internal review by X revealed that Media Matters’ account started to alter its scrolling and refreshing activities in an attempt to manipulate inorganic combinations of advertisements and content. Media Matters’ excessive scrolling and refreshing generated between 13 and 15 times more advertisements per hour than would be seen by a typical user, essentially seeking to force a situation in which a brand ad post appeared adjacent to fringe content.
32. Eventually, through intentionally evading X’s multiple safeguards by curating the content on its feed and then repeatedly attempting to create pairings of advertisements for major brands with controversial content, Media Matters finally achieved its goal. Accordingly, it took screenshots of posts from IBM, Apple, Bravo, Xfinity, and Oracle that Media Matters engineered to appear adjacent to inflammatory, fringe content.
It goes on, read the whole thing.
One important part of the complaint is that it puts in issue Media Matters’ longstanding tactic and business model of targeting advertisers:
16. Defendant Media Matters is a web-based publisher incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia with its principal place of business at 800 Maine Avenue SW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20024. The organization’s purpose is “to systematically monitor” conservative media and publish reports based on this purported reporting.
41. Media Matters represents itself as “a progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.”6 Since its launch in 2004, it has engaged in an all-out campaign of “guerilla warfare and sabotage” on conservative news sources.7 In this context, X Corp. and Elon Musk are a critical Media Matters target because X is the most prominent online platform that permits users to share all viewpoints, whether liberal or conservative, and Mr. Musk is the most prominent voice on the platform and a passionate supporter of free speech. In taking down two forces it already found objectionable, Media Matters had the chance to starve X of ad revenue and thereby silence all of the voices on X. Nothing in Media Matters’ campaign was coincidental or accidental. And, its guerilla attack on X is working, driving away X’s advertisers and revenue precisely as intended.
54. Defendant Media Matters engaged in wrongful conduct that disrupted X Corp.’s economic relationships. Through extensive deception and misrepresentation, Defendant Media Matters caused advertisers to lose faith in X Corp.’s abilities to monitor and curate content, thereby leading them to break off these lucrative relationships and any future continued relationships.
55. Defendant Media Matters acted with the intent to disrupt these relationships. Media Matters’ actions continued its expressly declared “guerilla war” on media it dislikes and its systematic, harassing attacks on X Corp. and Elon Musk.
This could give X discovery not just of what Media Matters did here, but its other efforts to attack advertisers at other platforms because Media Matters disagreed with their politics.
Keep in mind this case is in Texas. Think about how a Texas jury will feel if X is able to prove its allegations.
Did Media Matters engage in this subterfuge and fraud? Obviously that verdict will work itself out in court, but it would not surprise me in the least, having covered Media Matters for over a decade. Founded orignally by the toxic David Brock, with an infusion of cash from George Soros, Media Matters has poisoned our politics as much as anyone else. They are bullies who found a weak spot in the conservative media armor, that advertisers were afraid of controversy, so all Media Matters needed to do is put advertisers in the hot seat and they would flee.
Rumble has felt Media Matters’ wrath as well, and is threatening to sue.
X is not alone.
I can also confirm that Media Matters has purposely misrepresented Rumble. Their dishonesty warrants an immediate investigation at the highest levels (hint, @SpeakerJohnson & @Jim_Jordan), and I’ll bring the receipts.
Here’s my statement: pic.twitter.com/puEmsmgwAo
— Chris Pavlovski (@chrispavlovski) November 20, 2023
Musk had threatened to sue senior officers, but none were named. They can be added later after discovery, where Musk will learn who was involved in approving the alleged plan. It’s hard to imagine that with such a big target on and campaign against X, that Carusone was not involved.
Media Matters doesn’t want to win arguments, or even get viewers and readers to boycott conservative media. It seeks to deprive viewers and readers of that option. It seeks to deplatform conservative media by cutting off the advertising stream. Media Matters spawned a slew of leftist copycats, and now all conservative media is under pressure. Bad people.
One of the advantages of Legal Insurrection having been around for 15 years, is that we have institutional memory in the form of our prior posts. Here is a sampling of our prior Media Matters coverage:
- Media Matters for Soros (2010)
- Media Matters Plans “Guerrilla Warfare and Sabotage” on Fox News And Conservative Websites (2011)
- Media Matters astroturfed the Limbaugh secondary boycott (2012)
- Independent Rush boycott group coordinated with Media Matters (2012)
- Media Matters identifies greatest threat to education — John Stossel (2013)
- Andrew Breitbart vindicated on Pigford after years of attacks from Media Matters and others (2013)
- Media Matters: Be afraid of Megyn Kelly, be very afraid (2013)
- Ex-WaPo Ombudsman alleges Media Matters organized email campaign against Jennifer Rubin (2013)
- Media Matters deceptively edits Limbaugh audio (2014)
- Media Matters honcho behind #StopRush effort accused of offensive writings (2014)
- David Brock Offers Cash for Dirt on Trump (2016)
- Here’s why Rush survived pressure on advertisers while O’Reilly didn’t (2017)
- Cracks appear in Media Matters Twitter thuggery campaign against Hannity (2017)
- Fox News supports Laura Ingraham against “agenda-driven intimidation efforts” (2018)
- Tucker Carlson Responds to Latest Media Matters Attack: “We will never bow to the mob. Ever.” (2019)
- Tucker Carlson Takes on Media Matters President (2019)
- Dem Operative David Brock To Launch Attack On Republican Election Lawyers: “make them toxic in their communities and in their firms” (2022)
- Media Matters Threatens Elon Musk With Advertiser Boycott of Twitter (2022)
This is a frivolous lawsuit meant to bully X’s critics into silence. Media Matters stands behind its reporting and look forward to winning in court.
— Angelo Carusone (@GoAngelo) November 21, 2023
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.