Apple was one of a number of major companies to suspend advertising on X, following a report showing that their ads appeared next to hate speech on the platform. That led to an X lawsuit against Media Matters, which first reported the problem.
A new report suggests that the lawsuit is unlikely to succeed, and in fact contains within it an admission by X that what Media Matters said was happening was indeed happening …
Apple, IBM, Sony and others suspend X ads
Media Matters reported that the ads of major brands like IBM and Apple were appearing adjacent to hate speech by extremist accounts, including explicitly antisemitic ones.
Apple, Discovery, IBM, Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony, and Warner Brothers were among the major brands to respond by suspending ads on the social media platform.
X lawsuit followed
X owner Elon Musk responded by threatening a lawsuit against Media Matters, in a tweet describing the report as a “fraudulent attack on our company.” He attached a screenshot alleging that the reporters had manipulated an account to “force a scenario” which did not represent the experience of real X users. That lawsuit was subsequently filed.
CEO Linda Yaccarino echoed this in a memo to X employees, in which she referenced “a misleading and manipulated article,” and said that the brands concerned had simply “temporarily paused investments.”
TechCrunch says lawsuit admits the main claim
A new piece in TechCrunch argues that the lawsuit is unlikely to succeed, as the filing itself confirms the truth of the main allegation made by Media Matters.
The company alleges that Media Matters defamed X, having “manufactured” or “contrived” the images; that it had not “found” the ads as claimed, but rather had “created these pairings in secrecy.” (Emphasis theirs.)
Had these images been actually manufactured or created in the way implied the language here, that would indeed be a serious blow to the credibility of Media Matters and its reporting. But X’s lawyers don’t mean that the images were manufactured — in fact, CEO Linda Yaccarino posted today that “only 2 users saw Apple’s ad next to the content,” which seems to directly contradict the idea that the pairings were manufactured.
The piece acknowledges that Media Matters did deliberately create the conditions in which the ad placements appeared. Namely, they created an X account which followed extremist accounts and major tech brands, and no-one else. But says that while the necessary conditions may be unusual, the fact that two X users experienced the same thing shows that it was a real issue, if a small one.
TechCrunch reports that some advertisers said they acted not in response to the Media Matters report, but to a tweet by X owner Elon Musk endorsing something the White House referred to as “antisemitic and racist hate.”
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