Media Matters fires back at Texas AG in row over Elon Musk’s X

Ken Paxton opened an investigation into Media Matters after the non-profit released a report claiming adverts from major companies were running next to pro-Hitler and antisemitic content on Elon Musk’s X

Martha McHardy
Wednesday 13 December 2023 12:37 GMT
Elon Musk tells advertisers who have pulled out of X to 'go f*** yourself'

Media Matters is now suing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton after he opened an investigation into the liberal non-profit over its reporting of Elon Musk’s X.

In the lawsuit, the non-profit alleges that Mr Paxton’s “retaliatory” investigation is unlawful and violates its First Amendment rights.

The dispute began when Media Matters released a report claiming that adverts from major companies were running next to pro-Hitler and antisemitic content on X.

The report prompted a series of major companies – including Disney, Apple and IBM – to pull advertising from the social media platform.

Executives at X quickly condemned Media Matters, claiming the research strategy used to uncover the content next to company adverts was not representative of how regular people use the platform.

The organisation had followed accounts that posted the content, then refreshed the X timeline until adverts appeared, X executive Joe Benarroch claimed.

An X spokesperson added that the company did not intentionally place the adverts next to the posts from the antisemitic accounts, which have now been demonetised, meaning advertising can no longer run on their profiles.

Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Mr Musk also responded to the report by launching a “thermonuclear lawsuit“ against Media Matters alleging it unlawfully interfered with X’s relationships with advertisers.

Mr Paxton, a Republican, then announced that he was opening an investigation into Media Matters “for potential fraudulent activity” related to its investigation of X.

At the time, Mr Musk applauded the probe, writing on X: “Fraud is both a civil and criminal violation.”

Now, in the latest twist, Media Matters announced its own legal action against Mr Paxton, suing the AG and asking a judge to permanently block his investigation.

While the latest lawsuit does not allege that Mr Musk and Mr Paxton are in collusion, it claims that Mr Paxton was one of several “politicians and media figures” who “swiftly jumped to Musk’s cause” over the report.

As well as alleging violations of the First Amendment, the suit also claims the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of due process and reporter “shield” laws in Maryland and Washington DC have been violated.

The lawsuit claims that Mr Paxton’s office sent a letter to Media Matters on 21 November demanding a “broad swath of documents” related to its reporting.

Under “shield” laws, journalists are protected from being compelled to disclose their sources in certain situations.

Attorneys for Media Matters said the request from Mr Paxton’s office was intrusive, and many of Media Matters’ reporters and researchers have since “pared back reporting and publishing, particularly on any topics that could be perceived as relating to the Paxton investigation”.

Elon Musk (AP)

“These reporters and researchers are also aware that Media Matters’s editorial team has been required to hold back stories about X and Musk due to these concerns,” the lawsuit adds.

Lawyers for Media Matters added that “the chill imposed by his retaliatory scheme injures Plaintiffs’ ability to investigate and publish news stories and further chills their ability to participate in a robust public discussion around political extremism on the X platform”.

Media Matters, which is based in Washington DC but does carry out business in Texas, is outside of the Texas attorney general’s jurisdiction.

The Independent has contacted X, Media Matters and Mr Paxton’s office for comment.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in