Musk Battles Media Matters Over Brand Safety Report

X Corp. is urging a federal judge to allow it to proceed with a lawsuit accusing advocacy group Media Matters of harming the platform's relationship with advertisers by publishing an allegedly “false report” about brand safety.

“Media Matters engaged in an ideologically driven campaign to destroy X’s business relationships,” the platform says in papers filed Friday with U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor in the Northern District of Texas.

“It targeted X’s relationships with its advertisers -- which Media Matters itself describes as brand-conscious, blue-chip companies -- to harm X, the X platform, and its owner, Elon Musk,” the company adds.

The company's papers come in a battle dating to November, when Media Matters reported that ads for brands including Apple, Bravo, IBM and Oracle were being placed next to pro-Nazi posts.



After the report came out, Apple, IBM, Comcast and other companies suspended advertising on X.

X subsequently alleged in a complaint filed in federal court in Texas 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 also said ad placements highlighted in Media Matters' report were “inorganic” and rare.

The platform elaborated in its complaint that Media Matters 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.”

That technique allowed Media Matters to produce “side-by-side ad/content placements that it could screenshot in an effort to alienate advertisers,” X claimed.

X also alleged that Media Matters “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.”

In February, Media Matters urged O'Connor to throw out the lawsuit. The advocacy group said X lacked a basis to sue in Texas, and said the allegations in the complaint, even if proven true, wouldn't show either that Media Matters interfered with X's ad contracts, or maliciously published false and disparaging statements.

Among other arguments, Media Matters said X's complaint itself shows that the organization's November report was “substantially true,” and therefore couldn't support a disparagement finding.

“X never claims in the complaint that defendants fabricated the images reproduced in their articles,” Media Matters argued in its February filing. “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.'”

X counters in its new motion that its disparagement claim should move forward because there are factual questions about whether Media Matters “manufactured the disputed ad pairings.”

Media Matters also argued in its February filing that X's claims regarding interference with contracts should be dismissed because X didn't allege that any companies were contractually obligated to purchase ads on X.

“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 argued.

X is asking O'Connor to reject that argument, writing: “It is common knowledge and hardly a revelation to Media Matters that X contracts with advertisers -- providing X’s primary revenue source.”

Media Matters isn't the only organization X has sued over critical reports. The tech platform also brought a complaint against the watchdog Center for Countering Digital hate, after that group reported on offensive speech by X users.

Last week, a federal judge in California threw out X's complaint under California's anti-SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) law, which protects people's ability to speak about matters of public concern.

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