Elon Musk’s Lawsuit Reveals Hate-Adjacent Ads on X
In a surprising turn of events, Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, has filed a lawsuit against news organization Media Matters, alleging defamation. The lawsuit sheds light on the presence of hate-adjacent advertisements on the platform, which has already caused major companies like IBM and Apple to pull their ads from X.
The Allegations and Defamation Claims
Media Matters recently published an article showcasing screenshots of ads from prominent companies like IBM, Apple, and Oracle appearing next to antisemitic content, including pro-Hitler material. This revelation provoked Musk’s anger, and he vowed to file a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters and anyone involved in the attack on X.
However, the lawsuit filed by X seems to fall short of its promised impact. X alleges that Media Matters “manufactured” or “contrived” the images and did not genuinely find the ads as claimed. X’s lawyers argue that the pairings were created in secrecy, casting doubt on the credibility of Media Matters and its reporting.
The Reality of the Ads
Contrary to X’s claims, CEO Linda Yaccarino contradicted the notion that the images were manufactured, stating that only two users saw Apple’s ad next to the hateful content. Media Matters did set up conditions for the ads to appear, using an older account without ad filters and following hateful accounts and corporate advertisers.
While the number of users following neo-Nazis and major tech brands is limited, the fact remains that the ads unequivocally appeared next to the offensive content. X’s lawsuit acknowledges that they were aware of the extreme nature of these accounts but did not demonetize them until Media Matters pointed them out.
Following Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic post, major advertisers, including Apple, Disney, and Comcast, paused their spending on X. The moderation of hateful content poses a significant challenge for social networks, as it constantly evolves, making it difficult to detect and remove promptly.
Yaccarino’s previous claim that brands were protected from the risk of being associated with hateful content appears incomplete in light of Media Matters’ findings. While the edge case presented may not represent the average user experience, it demonstrates the possibility of encountering hate-adjacent ads on X, leading advertisers to withdraw their support.
The Fallout and Lawsuit Demands
Media Matters’ manipulation of the situation was significant enough that even companies not featured in the article, such as Lionsgate, Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount, and Sony, pulled their ads from X. However, it is worth noting that Lionsgate specifically attributed their decision to Musk’s tweet rather than Media Matters’ article.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District Court of Texas, seeks $100,000 in damages and a jury trial. However, the likelihood of either outcome seems uncertain.
In conclusion, Elon Musk’s lawsuit against Media Matters has brought attention to the presence of hate-adjacent ads on X, leading to the withdrawal of major advertisers. While the authenticity of the images in question is disputed, the incident highlights the challenges social networks face in moderating hateful content.