The advocacy group Media Matters for America is asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit by X Corp, which claims it was disparaged by a report that ads for major brands appeared next to pro-Nazi content on the platform.
“X’s complaint fails in just about every way that a complaint can possibly fail,” Media Matters writes in papers filed Tuesday with U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort Worth, Texas.
The organization specifically argues that X (formerly Twitter) has no legal basis for bringing suit in Texas, and that the allegations in the complaint, even if proven true, wouldn't show either that Media Matters interfered with X's ad contracts, or malicously published false and disparaging statements.
The group's filing comes in response to a lawsuit brought by X last November, soon after Media Matters reported that ads for brands including Apple, Bravo, IBM and Oracle were being placed next to pro-Nazi posts.
After the report appeared, Apple, IBM, Comcast and other companies suspended advertising on X.
X alleged alleged in its complaint that Media Matters “manipulated” X's algorithms in order to “bypass safeguards and create images of X’s largest advertisers’ paid posts adjacent to racist, incendiary content.”
X alleged in its complaint that the advocacy group followed a “small subset” of users who were “known to produce extreme, fringe content,” and also followed “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,” X alleged in its the complaint.
X added that Media Matters then “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” until finding “controversial content next to X’s largest advertisers’ paid posts.”
The platform contended that the ad placements highlighted in Media Matters' report were “inorganic” and also “exceedingly (and demonstrably) rare.”
“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 platform alleged.
The complaint included claims that Media Matters interfered with X's contracts with advertisers, and that Media Matters engaged in “business disparagement” by allegedly making false statements about ad placement on X.
Media Matters argues in its dismissal motion that X's allegations, even if proven true, wouldn't support those claims.
One reason, according to Media Matters, is that the complaint doesn't allege that any advertisers were contractually obligated to purchase ads on X.
“X cannot sustain its first claim without alleging the existence of such a contract,” Media Matters writes. “Merely claiming that certain advertisers purchased advertising space on X in the past -- and anticipating they would continue to do so in the future -- is not enough to plead an interference with contract claim under Texas law.”
Media Matters also says the disparagement claim should be dismissed because X “cannot plausibly allege” that the statements in the report were false.
“X never claims in the complaint that defendants fabricated the images reproduced in their articles,” the group writes. “Far from it: X expressly acknowledges (as it must) that it is possible for the platform to display advertisements next to extremist content, even as it claims these pairings are 'rare.'”
“Because X’s own pleadings admit that the gist of the reporting is substantially true -- even if X finds it to be unpleasant or objectionable ... -- the business disparagement claim must be dismissed,” Media Matters writes.
The group also says the lawsuit doesn't belong in Texas, given that it's headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has no staff in Texas.