X sues critics after advertisers flee
A lawsuit filed by X accuses an organization of intentionally alienating customers. A scandal over anti-Semitism and Nazi content had previously caused a stir at the Twitter successor.
Elon Musk’s online platform X has sued the authors of a critical report that scared away major advertisers such as IBM, Apple and Disney last week. The Twitter’s successor accuses the organization Media Matters for America of using targeted manipulation to ensure that advertisements from well-known companies appeared alongside Nazi posts and anti-Semitic statements. Media Matters boss Angelo Carusone responded that his organization continues to stand by the report and looks forward to winning in court.
X claims in the lawsuit that Media Matters artificially created a situation in which the ads appeared next to posts of extremist content – for example by specifically selecting profiles and frequently updating the ad. However, the organization kept this secret and thus gave the impression that it had discovered the pairings. In previous similar allegations by Media Matters, other users were also able to find advertisements from well-known companies alongside extremist content without manipulation.
Musk filed suit in conservative Texas
Companies and organizations have only limited influence over which posts their advertising is placed next to. The ads are shown based on age groups, specific areas or user interests. In order to avoid a negative environment for their brands, advertisers are primarily dependent on X consistently keeping hate speech off the platform – or at least not allowing any ads to be placed next to it. Otherwise, a user may scroll through an extremist account and be shown advertising based on their usual interests.
Other online services have also had similar problems with their advertising customers in the past, for example Google’s video platform YouTube. At that time, it tightened content supervision in order to win back advertising customers.
X’s headquarters are in San Francisco and its official headquarters are in Nevada – but Musk filed the lawsuit in Texas, a state where the government and large parts of the population hold very conservative views. At the same time, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a well-known advocate of right-wing political views, opened an investigation into Media Matters. Not only is Musk’s space company SpaceX active in Texas, he also had the headquarters of the electric car manufacturer Tesla, which he runs, moved there from California.