After a spate of major advertisers said they were halting spending on X over owner Elon Musk’s support of an antisemitic conspiracy theory, the tech mogul said he plans to file a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against a research group that had claimed to find ads on X/Twitter running against pro-Nazi and white nationalist posts.
On Friday, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Lionsgate and Paramount Global they were pausing their ads on X, coming after IBM said it was halting ad spending a day earlier. Apple also is suspending advertising spending on X, per an Axios report.
Several of the X advertisers cited Musk’s endorsement earlier this week of a conspiracy theory that Jewish people “promote hatred against whites.” But in his late-night legal threat, Musk took aim at watchdog group Media Matters over what he alleged was manipulated research about advertising on the platform.
“The split second court opens on Monday, X Corp will be filing a thermonuclear lawsuit against Media Matters and ALL those who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company,” Muskon X late Friday night. He added that the legal action will go after “Their board, their donors, their network of dark money, all of them …”
According to a document posted by Musk, in order to “manipulate the public and advertisers,” Media Matters created an alternate account and curated the posts and advertising appearing on the account’s timeline to “misinform advertisers about the placement of their posts. These contrived experiences could be applied to any platform.” (Read the full document below.)
Media Matters reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Thursday, Media Matters released research finding that five major brands — Apple, IBM, NBCUniversal’s Bravo, Oracle and Comcast’s Xfinity — had their ads run next to posts that “tout Hitler and his Nazi Party” on X. Then on Friday, Media Matters published aclaiming that it found ads for Amazon, NBA Mexico, NBCUniversal Catalyst, Action Network and Club for Growth next to white nationalist hashtags like “KeepEuropeWhite,” “white pride,” and “WLM” (“White Lives Matter”).
The advertiser exodus Friday came after the White House earlier in the day had condemned Musk for promoting “antisemitic and racist hate.” That came after Musk on Wednesday agreed with an X user who promoted the conspiracy theory that Jewish communities “have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.” In the now-removed post, the X user said they were “deeply disinterested in giving the tiniest shit now about western Jewish populations” who are facing “hordes of minorities that support flooding their country.”
Here’s the text of the document Musk posted on the issue related to Media Matters:
Stand with X to protect free speech
This week Media Matters for America posted a story that completely misrepresented the real user experience on X, in another attempt to undermine freedom of speech and mislead advertisers.
Above everything, including profit, X works to protect the public’s right to free speech. But for speech to be truly free, we must also have the freedom to see or hear things that some people may consider objectionable. We believe that everyone has the right to make up their own minds about what to read, watch, or listen to – because that’s the power of freedom of speech.
Despite our clear and consistent position, X has seen a number of attacks from activist groups like Media Matters and legacy media outlets who seek to undermine freedom of expression on our platform because they perceive it as a threat to their ideological narrative and those of their financial supporters. These groups try to use their influence to attack our revenue streams by deceiving advertisers on X.
Here are the facts on Media Matters’ research:
- To manipulate the public and advertisers, Media Matters created an alternate account and curated the posts and advertising appearing on the account’s timeline to misinform advertisers about the placement of their posts. These contrived experiences could be applied to any platform.
- Once they curated their feed, they repeatedly refreshed their timelines to find a rare instance of ads serving next to the content they chose to follow. Our logs indicate that they forced a scenario resulting in 13 times the number of ads served compared to the median ads served to an X user.
- Of the 5.5 billion ad impressions on that day, less than 50 total ad impressions were served against all of the organic content featured in the Media Matters article.
- For one brand showcased in the article, one of its ads ran adjacent to a post 2 times and that ad was seen in that setting by only two users, one of which was the author of the Media Matters article.
- For another brand showcased in the article, two of its ads served adjacent to 2 posts, 3 times, and that ad was only seen in that setting by one user, the author of the Media Matters article.
- Media Matters’ article also highlights nine posts they believe should not be allowed on X. Upon evaluation, only one of the nine organic posts featured in the article violated our content policies, and we’ve taken action on it under our Freedom of Speech, Not Reach enforcement approach.
Here’s a summary on this all:
- X will protect the public’s right to free expression. We will not allow agenda-driven activists, or even our own profits, to deter our vision.
- Everyone has a choice on X. User and brand control on X is superior to a year ago.
- Data wins over allegations. Media Matters does not reflect the user experience on X.
As we’ve seen in some parts of the world, when free expression is taken away, it is very dangerous and hard to get back – that’s why the people who came before us fought so hard to protect. Without freedom of speech we lose the checks and balances critical to a thriving democracy. We must defend our individual rights as if our lives, and flourishing society, depend on it.
If you’re really in on protecting free speech, then we all need to protect it completely.
Stand with X to protect free speech.