An adviser to former president Donald Trump, Elon Musk and Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey have called for journalists at Media Matters to be jailed over a report which sparked an antisemitism row on X.
The row began after Media Matters reported that adverts from big brands including IBM, Apple, Oracle and Bravo were running next to pro-Hitler and antisemitic content on Mr Musk’s social media platform.
The revelation prompted a series of major companies – including Disney, Apple and IBM – to pull advertising from X, while Mr Musk responded by threatening to file a “thermonuclear lawsuit against Media Matters and all those who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company”.
X executive Joe Benarroch also pushed back, saying that the research strategy used by Media Matters to uncover the content placed next to company adverts was not representative of how regular people use its platform.
The organisation had followed accounts that posted the content, then refreshed the X timeline until adverts appeared, Mr Benarroch claimed.
“50 impressions served against the content in the article, out of 5.5 billion served the whole day, points to the fact of how efficiently our model avoids content for advertiser,” he said in a statement posted to X. “Data wins over allegations.”
Mr Trump’s adviser Stephen Miller, whose politics have been described as far-right, has now also waded into the drama on X, claiming the report was “fraudulent” and suggesting journalists at the left-leaning non-profit group had committed crimes.
“Fraud is both a civil and criminal violation,” he said.
Mr Musk responded to Mr Miller’s post, chiming in: “Interesting. Both civil and criminal.”
AG Bailey also joined in, saying: “My team is looking into this matter.”
The Independent has reached out to Media Matters for comment.
The organisation previously called Mr Musk’s lawsuit “meritless” and “an attempt to silence reporting that he even confirmed is accurate”.
“Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content we identified. If he does sue us, we will win,” the non-profit said.
Since Mr Musk’s $44bn acquisition of X closed last year, he has relaxed moderation policies on X and cut many staff involved with safety on the platform.
An X spokesperson told The Independent 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.
Since taking over the company, Mr Musk has come under fire on multiple occasions over content that promotes antisemitism.
On Wednesday, Mr Musk, the self-described “free-speech absolutist”, sparked outrage when he said a post which promoted an antisemitic theory was “the actual truth”.
A social media user had appeared to push the “great replacement” conspiracy theory on X, claiming that Jewish communities “have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them”.
“I’m deeply disinterested in giving the tiniest s*** now about Western Jewish populations coming to the disturbing realisation that those hordes of minorities that support flooding their country don’t exactly like them too much. You want truth said to your face, there it is,” the post added.
Mr Musk’s responded by writing: “You have said the actual truth.”
His response received praise from white nationalist Nick Fuentes – while prompting widespread backlash from dozens more online, with many accusing him of antisemtism.
“This past week, there were hundreds of bogus media stories claiming that I am antisemitic. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he wrote.
“I wish only the best for humanity and a prosperous and exciting future for all.”
This came after an earlier scandal in the days after the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel, where Mr Musk was forced to delete a post in which he amplified an account widely accused of antisemitism and promoted debunked videos as reliable sources of information about the attack.
Last year, advocacy organisation the American Jewish Committee called on Mr Musk to apologise over a controversial post that made a satirical comparison between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Adolf Hitler.
Mr Musk has previously insisted that he is “pro free speech” but against antisemitism “of any kind”.
In September, he threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League – a century-old NGO that describes itself as the “leading anti-hate organisation in the world” – after the organisation accused him of antisemitism.