Elon Musk’s social media company X sued Media Matters for America on Monday and one of their staff members over an investigation report that the progressive watchdog group published, claiming Nazi content was found in the X app along with advertisements from major corporations.
The lawsuit was announced at the same time that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced an investigation into Media Matters to determine if there had been any fraudulent activities.
Paxton stated in a press release that Musk also posted to X.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey stated on Sunday, X, that his team is also investigating the matter. Bailey and Paxton both are Republicans.
In a lawsuit filed in Fort Worth federal court, Media Matters is seeking unspecified damages and an order to remove the article.
Angelo Carusone, President of Media Matters, said that the website will defend itself.
This is a frivolous suit meant to intimidate X’s opponents into silence. Media Matters is confident in its reporting and hopes to win in court,” said he in a press release.
Musk’s lawsuit represents a significant escalation in a battle involving his critics, X and its shaky relationship to advertisers. Musk sparked a firestorm on Wednesday by publishing comments about X that embraced a conspiracy theory many Jews deem antisemitic. Media Matters then published a report the following day stating Nazi posts were running next to ads for Apple, IBM, and other companies.
In response to this report, many of these advertisers have paused spending on X. They include Comcast, NBCUniversal. Comcast owns NBCUniversal which is the parent of NBC News.
In the lawsuit, X claims that Media Matters portrayal of the application is false because its article does not reflect what users typically see.
The lawsuit states that “Media Matters knowingly, maliciously and intentionally manufactured side-byside images showing advertisers’ posts on X Corp. social media platform next to Neo-Nazis and white-nationalists fringe content. They then portrayed these images as if it were what typical X platform users experienced on the platform.”
According to the lawsuit, the intention was to harm X’s advertising sales.
Media Matters is a nonprofit website founded by David Brock in 2004. Brock was a former journalist of the right, who later became a Democrat. He now works as a political commentator and consultant.
In the lawsuit, Eric Hananoki is also named as a defendant. He is a senior investigative journalist at Media Matters who wrote the article. Hananoki didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry for comment.
The lawsuit contains a number of specific legal claims. Media Matters “intentionally interjected contracts” between X’s advertisers and Media Matters. The website also disparaged X by making false statements, and did so with “clear malice” knowing that they were false.
According to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech, plaintiffs who are public figures have to prove that the other party acted with malice in order for them win claims such as defamation.
Daxton Stewart, journalism professor and lawyer at Texas Christian University, called the lawsuit “frivolous.” Stewart said that, although it is presented as a way to defend free speech, the suit would penalize a website.
Stewart wrote that the First Amendment is a huge problem in an email. They’re asking for a court order to remove clearly protected comments, but they are trying to avoid the obvious First Amendment problems with that, by cloaking their request in contract interference clauses that suggest advertisers left Twitter because of a Media Matters Report rather than their own judgement at what Twitter has become.
He added, “It is utter nonsense of course, but this is the way that these self-described freedom of speech warriors today operate.” “The goal is chilling free speech. We can only hope that it does not work.”
Musk and X don’t dispute the existence of Nazi material on the app. Musk has defended this presence as proof of free speech. In a Friday statement, he claimed that only one of the nine posts highlighted in Media Matters’ report violated X’s content policies. He claimed that X had restricted the reach of this post.
Media Matters highlighted a number of posts, including a denial of the Holocaust and a quote attributed to Adolf Hitler. A photo of Hitler was also included. Another post claimed that the rise of Nazism is a result of a spiritual awakening.
This story is in progress. Please check back often for updates.