Over the weekend, Elon Musk said he plans to file a “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters for America, a left-wing propaganda shop whose sole reason for existing is to churn out deceptive, fake studies designed to pressure large firms to pull advertising from media outlets and platforms that don’t toe the leftist line.
That’s precisely what Media Matters did last week when it released a bogus “report” alleging that X, formerly Twitter, runs ads for Apple, Bravo, IBM, Oracle, and Xfinity next to “pro-Nazi content.” Sure enough, after this report was published Thursday, Apple, IBM, and a bunch of other companies fell for the scam and announced they were pulling ads from X.
Then on Monday, Musk’s X filed a lawsuit against Media Matters, alleging the organization “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.”
But of course, nothing about the Media Matters report was typical. The whole thing was contrived, a ruse that Musk quickly exposed. Essentially, Media Matters set up some fake X accounts and then curated the feeds to display controversial content. “Once they curated their feed,” explained X in a statement Musk posted early Saturday morning, “they repeatedly refreshed their timelines to find a rare instance of ads serving next to the content they chose to follow.”
To achieve their desired outcome, these accounts had to generate 13 times the number of ads served compared to a normal X user. As the lawsuit filed on Monday stated, “The end result was a feed precision-designed by Media Matters for a single purpose: to produce side-by-side ad/content placements that it could screenshot in an effort to alienate advertisers.”
The result that Media Matters got through manipulating X’s algorithm in this way was anything but organic; in the case of paid posts from IBM, Comcast, and Oracle, those posts appeared alongside “fringe content” for only one X user: Media Matters. “Not a single authentic user of the X platform saw IBM’s, Comcast’s, or Oracle’s ads next to that content,” according to the lawsuit.
As X rightly noted, “These contrived experiences could be applied to any platform.”
The reason they were applied to X, however, has nothing to do with pro-Nazi content and everything to do with the fact that left-wing ideologues like the people at Media Matters don’t control X and can’t use it as a tool of censorship against their enemies. That’s it. Hiding behind the fig leaf of “research,” styling itself as a “watchdog group,” Media Matters is in the business of silencing its opponents by going after advertisers. The only thing it’s watching out for is dissent to crush.
Ginning up a bogus “study” to deplatform dissenting voices is a tactic we’re well familiar with here at The Federalist. Back in the summer of 2020, when Black Lives Matter riots were raging across the country, NBC News tried to pressure Google to pull its ads from our site based on a Media Matters-style hit job from a left-wing activist group in the United Kingdom.
Under the guise of reporting the news, NBC’s creepily named “Verification Unit” touted a report from a group called the Center for Countering Digital Hate that falsely claimed The Federalist was spreading dangerous lies about the rioting. The group’s specific tactic was to flag reader comments on certain articles and then accuse The Federalist of somehow endorsing the substance of those comments.
The geniuses over at NBC News, unbothered by the tawdry spectacle of one media outlet trying to get another demonetized, seized on the report and presented it to Google for comment. Did Google approve of its ads running on a site like The Federalist? After all, this left-wing group in the U.K. says The Federalist foments hate. Does Google support that?
It sounds stupid, but that’s what they did. There was no story there at all. It was pure activism, not journalism. And as it happens, I wrote one of the articles this left-wing activist group cited in its “report.” The headline of that article was, “The Media Are Lying to You About Everything, Including the Riots,” which was (and is) completely true. The irony that a legacy media outlet would then lie about what I argued in that piece in an attempt to hurt our publication seems to have been lost on the “Verification Unit” at NBC News.
Sadly, this is a pattern we have seen over and over again. What NBC News and the Center for Countering Digital Hate tried to do to us at The Federalist — impute guilt on the basis of third-party content and then pressure advertisers to pull out — is almost exactly what Media Matters has tried to do to X.
It should come as no surprise. Left-wing activists will do and say almost anything to suppress, censor, or shut down outlets and institutions they don’t control, that challenge the establishment narrative, and that push back against the media’s incessant lying. During Covid, they used ostensibly private institutions like the Stanford Internet Observatory to launder Department of Homeland Security censorship in an egregious attack on free speech. The federal government deputized Twitter and Facebook to carry out its censorship dirty work ahead of the 2020 election, and those companies dutifully complied.
But now they see that Musk won’t comply, which is why they’re going after X. That might prove to be a big mistake because Musk has the resources to fight back and go after groups like Media Matters. And Musk’s X isn’t the only one. Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey said Sunday his team was “looking into” the matter, and on Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced his office had opened an investigation into Media Matters for potentially fraudulent activity.
We’ll see where all this goes, but it’s good to see that a group like Media Matters actually might be held accountable for its incessant deception in the service of crushing free speech. Anyone who cares about free speech and self-government should hope Media Matters gets sued and fined into oblivion. It’s a cancer on our civic life, masquerading as a nonprofit watchdog when its only purpose is to censor and throttle free speech by any means necessary. The sooner it’s gone, the better off the country will be.