On Saturday morning, Elon Musk announced that X will be “filing a thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters and “all those who colluded” for “completely misrepresenting” the real user experience on X.
The lawsuit, which has now been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Fort Worth Division, alleges that Media Matters used deceptive tactics with the objective of driving users away from Musk’s social platform.
The lawsuit claims:
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.
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.
But this activity still was not enoughto create the pairings of advertisements and content that Media Matters aimed to produce.
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.
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.
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.” Only Oracle did not withdraw its ads.
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.
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.