Elon Musk on Friday lashed out at major advertisers and Media Matters, a media monitoring group, after several major brands decided to pause their spending on X, the social media platform he owns and runs as as CTO.
Musk wrote Late Friday night, “Court opens in a split second Monday, X Corp will file a thermonuclear lawsuit against Media Matters and EVERYONE who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company.” He added, “Their board, their donors, their dark money network, all of them…” and “discovery and depositions will be glorious to see,” in subsequent tweets.
Media Matters for America (MMFA) published a report Last week, ads for mainstream brands on X, formerly Twitter, were running alongside posts from users espousing pro-Nazi views. The report was released after Musk personally posted a series of tweets that the White House called “abhorrent promotion of anti-Semitic and racist hatred.”
In response, advertisers, including Apple, Comcast/NBC Universal (parent of CNBC.com), Disney, IBM, Lions Gate, Paramount WorldwideAnd Discovery Warner Bros.then decided to halt its ad spending, at least temporarily, on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Musk sold a paid, ad-free version of X in a tweet after news of suspended campaigns surfaced. He wrote, “Premium+ also has no advertising in your news feed. Most of the biggest advertisers are the biggest oppressors of your right to free speech.” He did not specify which major advertisers are, in his opinion, “oppressors”.
An X spokesperson, Joe Benarroch, emailed business blog post to CNBC which alleges that Media Matters has “completely misrepresented the real user experience” of the social network.
He also said in the email: “Media Questions created an alternate X account and deliberately followed sensitive accounts to organize posts and make advertising appear on the account’s timeline to then misinform advertisers about the placement of their posts. These artificial experiences could be created on any social media platform. »
Other social networks like Facebook, Reddit and TikTok also struggle with brand safety and moderation of hateful and false content on their platforms. However, Musk himself has drawn anger for personally encouraging bigoted views in his own tweets, including in recent weeks, to his more than 163 million followers.
In late October, an X user complained that a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee had been melted down in Charlottesville, Virginia. Bronze was to be used in new public art that would not glorify the losers of the Civil War. The user, who claimed to be a relative of the general, lamented: “my species is hated and many seek our extinction.” Musk then replied in agreement: “They absolutely want you to be extinguished.”
Last week, Musk subscribed to a post falsely claiming that Jewish people promote “dialectical hatred” against white people. Musk called the anti-Semitic message “the real truth,” sparking backlash from brands, critics and even the White House.
On the morning of November 17, the White House reprimanded Musk, saying he had engaged in “abhorrent promotion of anti-Semitic and racist hatred” that “goes against our core values as Americans.” .
Later on Friday, Musk declared a new policy for his social network: “As I said earlier this week, “decolonization,” “from river to sea,” and similar euphemisms necessarily imply genocide. Clear calls for extreme violence are against our terms of service and will result in suspension. »
The CEO of the ADL Jonathan Greenblatt welcomed Musk’s promise to suspend accounts engaging in what he considers genocidal speech. Musk has been unreservedly critical of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish-led organization that fights hate speech and discrimination. He also threatened to sue the ADL, but has yet to file suit.
It is unclear if and when X Corp. will actually take action against Media Matters, nor in what jurisdiction. X is based in San Francisco while the media watchdog is based in Washington, DC.
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone said in an emailed statement to CNBC on Saturday:
“Far from the free speech advocate he claims to be, Musk is a tyrant who threatens baseless lawsuits in an attempt to silence information he has even confirmed is accurate. Musk admitted that the ads in question were being broadcast alongside the pro-Nazi content we identified. If he sues us, we will win.”
— CNBC’s Jonathan Vanian contributed reporting