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22 Nov, 2023 21:05

Why Elon Musk is fighting a crucial battle for free speech

X (formerly Twitter) is suing watchdog Media Matters, accusing it of manipulating a hate speech report to tarnish the platform’s reputation
Why Elon Musk is fighting a crucial battle for free speech

Since Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, there has been a prevailing intuition that the platform, since renamed to X, would inevitably emerge as a potent challenger to establishment media.

Whether it’s unraveling their carefully woven narrative on Ukraine or exposing the delicate veneer of their agenda, X (formerly Twitter) has consistently been a source of discomfort for those in Washington or the EU managing the news flow – from Israel to the respective migration crises. But who would’ve thought that the retaliation would be this desperate and embarrassingly obvious?

On November 20, 2023, X initiated legal proceedings against Media Matters, a non-profit organization founded in 2004 with a mission to monitor and rectify conservative misinformation in US media. X alleges that Media Matters orchestrated a deceptive scenario by strategically juxtaposing advertisers’ posts with extremist content.

According to X, the crux of the defamation claim arises from Media Matters’ publication of a report asserting that ads for major brands were displayed alongside posts endorsing Nazism. X further contends that Media Matters employed manipulated algorithms and fake accounts to craft a narrative intended to besmirch the platform’s reputation. While applauding the theatricality, X questions the seriousness of such tactics.

Advertisers left in shambles

The aftermath was catastrophic, it seems. Big players like IBM, Apple, and Comcast ran for the hills, distancing themselves from X faster than you can say “cancel culture.”

Allegations of ads cozying up to pro-Nazi and white nationalist content created quite the stir, dealing a hefty blow to X’s attempts to win back the trust of those precious ad dollars. But hey, who needs advertisers when you’re fighting the good fight, right?

Still, X waltzed into federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, guns blazing, claiming that Media Matters knowingly and maliciously portrayed ads next to hateful material as a casual Tuesday for typical X users. According to the allegations, Media Matters deliberately followed the crème de la crème of “extreme fringe content” accounts and others owned by X’s major advertisers, then kept refreshing the feed until the desired outcome was on display. The result was a carefully curated feed designed to make advertisers jump ship, all captured on screenshots. Quite the strategic masterpiece, apparently.

Media Matters swiftly responded, dismissing the lawsuit as frivolous. Its president, Angelo Carusone, claimed that the legal action was a feeble attempt to silence critics. Undeterred, Media Matters boldly asserted its confidence in securing victory in court.

‘Free speech absolutism’ backfiring?

Now, let’s delve into the context – Elon Musk’s tumultuous tenure at the helm of X. Allegations of Musk turning a blind eye to anti-Semitic messages have circulated since his grand takeover over a year ago. Amid global tensions, including the Israel-Hamas war, Musk’s reluctance to censor ‘problematic’ posts on X only added more fuel to the already blazing controversy that is his leadership.

In response to the tumult, X CEO Linda Yaccarino stepped forward, pledging a commitment to combat discrimination on the platform.

In the unfolding saga of X’s legal battle against Media Matters, a complex narrative reveals Musk’s transformative influence on Twitter. He proclaims himself a “free speech absolutist” and this commitment transcends mere financial investment; it is a passionate endeavor to combat what Musk sees as a media swamp threatening free speech on his platform.

Having been a part of X since its inception (as Twitter), I’ve observed its evolution into an alternative internet, fostering diverse opinions within reasonable limits. The power to choose whom to follow or interact with should be a personal decision, free from external influence. Media Matters, with its apparent manipulative tactics, embarks on a questionable path of both exploiting that power and trying to punish Musk for bestowing it upon users.

In a coincidental twist, Media Matters president Carusone proudly claims responsibility for the #DumpTrump movement.

As the legal drama unfolds, the X vs. Media Matters saga becomes a spectacle – a masterclass in desperation where the line between truth and manipulation blurs. Whether this episode will establish a precedent for digital discourse or merely intensify chaos remains uncertain. The next act in this gripping Silicon Valley showdown promises more twists in this evolving narrative.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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