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Musk’s X sues Media Matters after report shows ads next to pro-Nazi posts

Elon Musk speaks to reporters as he leaves a Senate bipartisan Artificial Intelligence Insight Forum on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13.  (Elizabeth Frantz/For The Washington Post)
By Frances Vinall </p><p>and Timothy Bella Washington Post

X, the Elon Musk-owned social media company formerly known as Twitter, sued Media Matters and its writer Eric Hananoki on Monday over what X called an “intentionally deceptive report” about antisemitism on the platform, according to a court filing.

Media Matters, a nonprofit organization based in D.C., says it engages in “monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.”

Also on Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton opened an investigation into “potential fraudulent activity” by Media Matters.

Paxton said in a statement that his office is examining the issue “to ensure that the public has not been deceived by the schemes of radical left-wing organizations who would like nothing more than to limit freedom by reducing participation in the public square.”

Media Matters released a report by Hananoki on Thursday that included screenshots of mainstream advertisements appearing beside pro-Nazi content on X.

Multiple businesses, including IBM, Apple and Disney, subsequently suspended their advertising on the platform.

The lawsuit by X – which claims interference with contract, business disparagement and interference with prospective economic advantage – said some of X’s largest advertisers were among the companies withdrawing their ads.

The lawsuit said that Media Matters manipulated the X algorithm by following only 30 accounts of controversial users and large companies, then undertaking “excessive” scrolling and refreshing.

“The overall effect on advertisers and users was to create the false, misleading perception that these types of pairings were common, widespread, and alarming,” the filing said.

X’s safety protocols “under normal, organic conditions operate seamlessly,” it said.

When asked for comment, X replied to the Washington Post with a post by its chief executive, Linda Yaccarino, who wrote that “not a single authentic user on X saw IBM’s, Comcast’s, or Oracle’s ads next to the content in Media Matters’ article.

“Only 2 users saw Apple’s ad next to the content, at least one of which was Media Matters.”

In a post on X that was shared by Hananoki, Media Matters President Angelo Carusone said that the filing was “a frivolous lawsuit meant to bully X’s critics into silence” and that Media Matters stood by the reporting.

Carusone told the Washington Post on Tuesday that Media Matters was “repeatedly pointing out the same dysfunction in X’s brand safety provisions.”

He likened the lawsuit to someone “getting mad at a mirror because they don’t like the reflection.”

“It is a pretty blatant effort to intimidate us to stop what we do,” Carusone said.

The suit was filed in Texas, a state where the filing said X does significant business, although it is incorporated in Nevada, and its principal place of business is San Francisco.

On Wednesday, Musk tweeted agreement with a user posting a conspiracy theory alleging that Jews promoted “hatred against whites”; the billionaire commented under that post, “You have said the actual truth,” a remark that has been widely criticized, including by the White House.

Musk later posted that “nothing could be further from the truth” than the allegation that he was antisemitic.