After a significant departure of advertisers last week, including major media companies, Elon Musk, the owner of X, is taking legal action against the progressive watchdog group Media Matters. The lawsuit, filed on Monday, alleges that Media Matters distorted the likelihood of ads appearing alongside extremist content on X, asserting that the group’s testing methodology did not represent real user experiences on the platform.
The legal complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, accuses Media Matters of deliberately creating and disseminating images that falsely depicted advertisers’ posts on X’s social media platform alongside neo-Nazi and white-nationalist fringe content. The lawsuit targets Media Matters and Eric Hananoki, its senior investigative reporter, seeking a judicial order to remove the analysis from the website. It also accuses Media Matters of interfering with X’s advertising contracts, disrupting economic relationships, and unlawfully disparaging X.
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone has pledged to defend the group against the lawsuit, calling it a “frivolous lawsuit meant to bully X’s critics into silence.” X CEO Linda Yaccarino also defended the platform, stating that no authentic users on X witnessed major brands’ ads next to extremist content as portrayed in Media Matters’ article.
Following the lawsuit, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced an investigation into Media Matters, exploring whether the study of content on X could constitute “potential fraudulent activity” under Texas law. He characterized Media Matters as a “radical left-wing organization” seeking to limit freedom in the public square.
The legal move by Musk comes after a wave of major companies halted their advertising on X, triggered by Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic claim. Musk had teased the litigation on Saturday, threatening a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters and all those involved in the alleged attack on X.
Legal experts, however, widely viewed X’s complaint as weak and strategically filed in a court likely to be sympathetic to Musk. They characterized it as more symbolic than substantive, with the choice of venue in the ultra-conservative Northern District of Texas seen as an attempt to strengthen a weak claim. Some experts also noted that the lawsuit may have been filed in Texas to circumvent anti-SLAPP statutes, which don’t apply in the federal appeals court overseeing the state. The case has been assigned to District Judge Mark Pittman, a Donald Trump appointee known for his involvement in significant legal battles.