On MSNBC, Angelo Carusone explains why Elon Musk's own behavior will keep advertisers away from X

Carusone: “this just isn't worth the brand risks to be associated with something where the rot goes all the way to the top”

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Citation From the November 25, 2023, edition of MSNBC's American Voices with Alicia Menendez

ANGELO CARUSONE (PRESIDENT, MEDIA MATTERS): I think the thing that is important to note, and you certainly got there, is he is certainly not suing us for publishing anything that they say is false, in fact their own complaint acknowledges that everything that we reported was accurate, that the things appeared exactly the way that we said, that ads were running alongside Nazi content. The thing that I would just emphasize is that this is just one report of many that we've been publishing over months, and it they also illustrates the same issue, which might help explain why they are having problems with advertisers in addition to Elon Musk's own behavior, is that they promised a suite of new ad tools that were supposed to prevent these things from happening so they've sort of given up on the idea that the platform is going to be a safe haven for Nazis and pro-Hitler content. And what they've basically been telling advertisers is don't worry, even though the toxicity has gotten worse on our platform, we have special tools that will make sure that you never get embarrassed. So all of these reports basically illustrate one thing. That the mechanisms that they say exist, to prevent ads from running alongside pro-Nazi content, are not working the way that they claim, and I think that's the important thing here is that fundamentally, and they acknowledge it, the ads did run as we said, and so have other ads in the same way as you seem reporting not just from us. NBC has been making the same reports.

ALICIA MENENDEZ (HOST): You will understand the spirit in which I asked this question, which is, if you don't care about Media Matters and you don't really care about X, why should you care about what is unfolding?

ANGELO CARUSONE: I think the thing that's worth considering is two things. One, the way in which, where they filed the lawsuit, they sort of chose a jurisdiction that was going to be maximally beneficial for them, which I sort of understand but when you consider that this lawsuit is part of a series of things that they are doing at the same time, so taking up Stephen Miller's recommendation to enlist Republican attorney generals to sort of run parallel to Elon Musk's lawsuit, investigations of other attempts to criminally punish Media Matters for reporting the thing that was accurate about X in retaliation, that's when you start to have to worry about what does this mean for the future. Because Elon Musk took that call from Stephen Miller, obviously put a bunch of money into the litigation, but then said yeah whose game to do this, and state Attorney Generals, and a few of them took up the mantle, and started running with these investigations. So why should people care? Because it's a small window into the future where you can basically retaliate and punish media outlets for reporting accurate things, simply because you don't like them and not only will those outlets suffer, the real effect is that most places are going to stop doing things that might get them in trouble like this, because they just don't want to deal with the consequences or it has a chilling effect. So that's why people should care because it's the next iteration of a little bit of an authoritarian slide, and a stifling of good information. 


ALICIA MENENDEZ: Do you think that the exodus of advertisers holds?

ANGELO CARUSONE: Yes, I do. And I think that a big contributing factor to that is that Elon Musk's own behavior, which as you noted in your intro, he didn't just engage with an anti-semitic conspiracy theory, the great replacement theory, that somehow Jews in America are funding mass immigration in order to dilute white power, he responded by saying, "the actual truth." It's very hard to say oh I was just misinterpreting it, I think his own conduct, helps reinforce why the advertiser exodus state because what it shows to advertisers and prospective business partners is a lens through which they can think through all the things happening on X. "Why does it seem like there's so much more Nazi content, why does it seem like that platform is getting more extreme, why does it seem like the tools they are promising us, the brand safety tools are not working the way they should." It's because when you look at it through the lens of the key decision-maker there Elon Musk, he doesn't really see a problem or at least seemingly, with a lot of this content because it's also a reflection of his own worldview. So if you are a business person, and you're an advertiser you are saying, this just isn't worth the brand risks to be associated with something where the rot goes all the way to the top.


ALICIA MENENDEZ: We've got about a minute left but I do want to ask you Angelo, everything you are saying about the platform itself, about the role that GOP attorneys general are playing in carrying Musk's water, why it matters when you are 11 months out from an increasingly consequential presidential election?

ANGELO CARUSONE: That's really the key factor here. You know X and Twitter, all these social media platforms play a role in our information ecosystem, an increasing role. And even though X has had a diminished presence since Elon Musk took it over, it still provides at this point a safe haven for extremists an disinformation, it's algorithms allow for recommendations for connecting power on the fringes, and that ties in with the Republican strategy which is to build power, political power on what used to be considered the fringes. And so if you can take a platform like X, and you can then not just have it not working or cater to antisemitism, extremism, hate, or disinformation, but you can turn those tools to facilitate and support that worldview and that ideology, to help build power, that's where the consequences really start to become magnified. So it's far beyond X, it actually provides a beachhead and a launchpad for disinformation, for extremism that will be directly tied into not just people's civic participation in elections, but in the aftermath. And we saw how consequential that was last election cycle.


ALICIA MENENDEZ: That's why even if you are not an X user, you need to care.