Social media platform X on Monday sued media watchdog group Media Matters, alleging the organization defamed the platform after it published a report that said ads for major brands had appeared next to posts touting Nazism.
X, formerly Twitter, has faced growing outrage since Media Matters published the report on Thursday, which led IBM, Comcast and several other advertisers to pull ads from the platform in response.
In the lawsuit filed in a US district court in Texas, X claimed Media Matters “manipulated” the social media platform by using accounts that exclusively followed accounts for major brands or users known to produce fringe content and “resorted to endlessly scrolling and refreshing” the feed until it found ads next to extremist posts.
Media Matters’ report misrepresented the typical experience on X “with the intention of harming X and its business”, the company said in the lawsuit.
The watchdog group did not immediately respond to a request for comment after the lawsuit was filed.
In an interview with Reuters earlier on Monday, Angelo Carusone, the Media Matters president, said the non-profit’s findings flew in the face of X’s statements that it had introduced safety protections to prevent ads from appearing next to harmful content.
“If you search for white nationalist content, there are ads flourishing. The system they say exists is not operating as such,” he said.
X said in the lawsuit that ads for IBM, Comcast and Oracle only appeared alongside hateful content for one viewer, which the company said was Media Matters.
“Data wins over manipulation or allegations. Don’t be manipulated. Stand with X,” Linda Yaccarino, the chief executive of X, posted on Monday.
Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, said on Monday his office was opening an investigation into Media Matters and that he was “extremely troubled” by allegations that the group manipulated data on X.
Since Musk purchased Twitter for $44bn in October 2022, a stream of advertisers have fled the platform, wary of some of Musk’s controversial posts and layoffs of employees who worked to moderate content.
The platform’s US ad revenue has declined at least 55% year-over-year each month since Musk’s takeover, Reuters previously reported.
Yaccarino told employees in a note on Sunday that while some advertisers had paused their investments following the report’s publication, the company had been clear about its efforts to fight antisemitism and discrimination.
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