Elon Musk’s social media company, X, sued Media Matters for America and one of its staff members Monday over an investigative report the website published saying Nazi content ran on the X app alongside advertisements from major corporations.
News of the lawsuit coincided with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announcing an investigation into Media Matters for potential fraudulent activity.
“We are examining the issue closely to ensure that the public has not been deceived by the schemes of radical left-wing organizations who would like nothing more than to limit freedom by reducing participation in the public square,” Paxton said in a news release that was also posted to X by Musk.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey said Sunday on X that his team was also looking into the matter. Both Bailey and Paxton are Republicans.
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, seeks unspecified damages, as well as an order from the court for Media Matters to remove the article.
The lawsuit is a major escalation of a fight involving Musk, his critics and X’s shaky relationship with advertisers. Musk set off a firestorm last Wednesday when he published comments on X embracing a conspiracy theory that many Jews consider antisemitic, and Media Matters published its report the next day saying Nazi posts had run next to ads from Apple, IBM and other companies.
Many of those advertisers have paused their spending on X in response to the report. (They include Comcast and NBCUniversal. Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is the parent company of NBC News.)
In the lawsuit, X alleges that Media Matters’ portrayal of the social media app is untrue because its article didn’t reflect what typical users see.
“Media Matters knowingly and maliciously manufactured side-by-side images depicting advertisers’ posts on X Corp.’s social media platform beside Neo-Nazi and white-nationalist fringe content and then portrayed these manufactured images as if they were what typical X users experience on the platform,” the lawsuit says.
The intent was to harm X’s advertising sales, according to the suit.
Media Matters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Daxton Stewart, a journalism professor at Texas Christian University and a lawyer, said that the lawsuit was “frivolous.” He said that although the lawsuit is framed as defending free speech, it would do the opposite by penalizing a website.
“It’s utter nonsense, of course, but that’s the way these self-described free speech warriors operate today,” he wrote in an email. “The goal is to chill free speech, and we can only hope it doesn’t work.”
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.