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Elon Musk lashed out at large advertisers and Media Matters, a media watchdog group, on Friday after several major brands decided to pause spending on X, the social media platform he owns and runs as CTO.
Musk wrote late Friday night, “The split second court opens on Monday, X Corp can be filing a thermonuclear lawsuit against Media Matters and ALL those that colluded on this fraudulent attack on our company.” He added, “Their board, their donors, their network of dark money, all of them…” and “the invention and depositions can be glorious to behold,” in subsequent tweets.
Media Matters for America (MMFA) published a report last week showing ads for mainstream brands on X, formerly Twitter, were running alongside user posts espousing pro-Nazi views. The report got here after Musk personally posted a spate of tweets that the White House called an “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate.”
In response, advertisers including Apple, Comcast/NBC Universal (parent of CNBC.com), Disney, IBM, Lions Gate, Paramount Global, and Warner Bros. Discovery, then decided to halt their ad spending, at the very least temporarily, on the social media platform formerly often known as Twitter.
Musk hawked a paid, ad-free subscription version of X in a tweet after news of suspended campaigns surfaced. He wrote, “Premium+ also has no ads in your timeline. A lot of the most important advertisers are the best oppressors of your right to free speech.” He didn’t specify which large advertisers he believes are “oppressors.”
A spokesperson for X, Joe Benarroch, emailed a company blog post to CNBC that alleges Media Matters has “completely misrepresented the actual user experience” of the social network.
He also said in the e-mail: “Media Matters created an alternate X account and deliberately followed sensitive accounts to curate posts and get promoting to seem on the account’s timeline to then misinform advertisers concerning the placement of their posts. These contrived experiences could possibly be created on any social media platform.”
Other social networks like Facebook, Reddit and TikTok, grapple with brand safety and moderation of hateful and false content on their platforms, too. Nonetheless, Musk himself has drawn ire for personally boosting bigoted viewpoints in his own tweets, including in recent weeks, to his greater than 163 million listed followers there.
In late October, an X user complained that a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was melted down in Charlottesville, Virgina. The bronze was slated to be used in latest public art that might not glorify the losers of the Civil War. The user, who claimed to be a relative of the final lamented, “my kind is hated and plenty of seek our extinction.” Musk then replied in agreement: “They absolutely want your extinction.”
Last week, Musk agreed with a post falsely claiming that the Jewish people have been pushing “dialectical hatred” against white people. Musk called the antisemitic post “the actual truth,” prompting a backlash from brands, critics and even the White House.
The morning of Nov. 17, the White House admonished Musk saying he had engaged in an “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate” which “runs against our core values as Americans.”
In a while Friday, Musk declared a latest policy for his social network: “As I said earlier this week, ‘decolonization,’ ‘from the river to the ocean’ and similar euphemisms necessarily imply genocide. Clear calls for extreme violence are against our terms of service and can end in suspension.”
The ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt has praised Musk’s promise to suspend accounts engaging in what he views as genocidal speech. Musk has been unwaveringly critical of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish-led organization that fights hate speech and discrimination. He also previously threatened to sue, but has not yet sued, the ADL.
It just isn’t clear whether or when X Corp. will actually file a suit against Media Matters, or wherein jurisdiction. X relies in San Francisco while the media watchdog relies in Washington, D.C.
Media Matters president Angelo Carusone said in a press release e-mailed to CNBC on Saturday:
“Removed from the free speech advocate he claims to be, Musk is a bully who threatens meritless lawsuits in an try and silence reporting that he even confirmed is accurate. Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content we identified. If he does sue us, we’ll win.”
— CNBC’s Jonathan Vanian contributed reporting