Tag Archives: Elon Musk

X Sues Media Matters To Silence Moderation Criticism

X, formerly Twitter, has followed through with owner Elon Musk’s threat to sue the left-leaning nonprofit Media Matters, The Verge reported. Media Matters reported last week that X “has been placing ads for major brands” like Apple and IBM “next to content that touts Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party.”

According to The Verge, Musk and X CEO Linda Yaccarino have dubbed the report unrepresentative of X’s general user experience. Several companies nonetheless pulled ads after that report and Musk’s direct endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory – and Musk’s lawsuit claims Media Matters is legally liable for X’s loss.

Neither Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, nor X argues that Media Matters was falsely claiming to see ads on pro-Nazi content. In fact, the suit confirms that the screenshots the organization posted are real. But it alleges the organization “manipulated” the service to make X serve the offending ads.

The lawsuit accuses Media Matters of interference with contract, business, disparagement and interference with prospective economic advantage – claims that could be difficult to prove given the First Amendment’s high bar for legally prosecuting speech, The Verge reported.

“We are going to continue our work undeterred. If he sues us, we will win,” Media Matters president Angelo Carsone told The Verge in a previous statement, saying that “Elon Musk has spent the last few days making meritless legal threats, elevating bizarre conspiracy theories, and lobbing vicious personal attacks against his ‘enemies’ online.”

The Hill reported that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said Monday that his office is opening an investigation into Media Matters for America over its recent reports accusing X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, of placing ads for mainstream brands next to pro-Nazi and white nationalist content.

According to The Hill, Paxton’s office said it is investigating the liberal media watchdog group for “potential fraudulent activity” after X sued Media Matters in federal court in Texas, alleging it “manipulated the algorithms” on the platform in order to produce the reports and “alienate advertisers.”

Media Matters initially released a report Thursday saying that it had found ads for companies including Apple, Bravo, Oracle, Xfinity and IBM next to posts on X celebrating Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, The Hill reported. In a follow up report on Friday, the watchdog said it had also found ads for Amazon, NBA Mexico, NBCUniversal Catalyst, Action Network and Club for Growth next to posts featuring white nationalist hashtags.

CNBC reported the National Football League is sticking with X, formerly known as Twitter, as Elon Musk’s site faces an advertiser revolt over hate speech and antisemitism on the platform.

According to CNBC, the NFL has partnered with the platform since 2013 as part of an effort to bring fans exclusive content.

Since Musk took over last fall, the platform has been caught up in several controversies, including those surrounding X’s policy for moderating harmful content.

In my opinion, the correct thing to do, when discovering that antisemitic and Nazi content is on your platform, is to actively remove that content. Filing a lawsuit in an effort to stifle what Media Matters found indicates Musk is not interested in cleaning up X at all.

X Appears To Be Rolling Out Ads That Can’t Be Reported Or Blocked

X, the Elon Musk-owned platform formerly known as Twitter, has begun serving its users with a weird new ad format and it’s one of the company’s least transparent products yet, Mashable reported. The rollout of these ads also provides the public with a hint regarding just how much the company is struggling to attract advertisers.

Multiple X users have reached out to Mashable over the past few days to report seeing a new type of ad in their For You feed that they had not previously come across on the platform. These new X ads don’t allow users to like or retweet the ad posts. In fact, the new ad format also doesn’t disclose who is behind the ad or that it is even an advertisement at all.

Mashable has confirmed this ad format with numerous users from across X and have seen a variety of different ads running this bizarre new format that just consists of written copy text, a photo, and a fake avatar that’s sole purpose is to make the ad look like an organically posted tweet.

According to Mashable, the type of content being promoted in the ads that Mashable has viewed appear to be consistent with ads found in spammy, low quality, “chumbox” advertising – typically defined as those clickbait ads found at the bottom of posts on content farm sites – made popular by native ad networks like Taboola.

Daring Fireball (by John Gruber) reported that Linda Yaccarino keeps claiming that X is on the upswing, but looking at the actual content – especially the ads – says otherwise. These new “chumbox” ads are bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, the sort of ads I’d expect to see on a third-rate Twitter knock off site like Truth Social. X itself now feels like a third-rate Twitter knock off.

Media Matters For America posted a research/study titled “Linda Yaccarino again claims advertisers are returning to X. Here are the facts.” From Media Matters:

CEO Linda Yaccarino and others at X (formerly Twitter) have repeatedly tried to boast that advertisers are returning to the platform, but Media Matters analysis tells a different story: Since Elon Musk took over the company, it has earned 42% less ad revenue and had 28% fewer individual monthly advertisers than before his leadership began. Additionally, in the 12 weeks of Yaccarino’s tenure as CEO, the majority of the company’s top 100 advertisers pre-Musk spent a fraction of what they did in the 12 weeks prior to Musk’s acquisition.

For example, Visa – which Yaccarino cited as an example of a “returning” advertiser – has spent just $10 in the past 12 weeks, compared to roughly $77,500 in the 12 weeks before Musk bought Twitter.

Media Matters has been tracking advertising data on X from Sensor Tower since Musk acquired what was then called Twitter on October 27, 2022. Less than a month later, Media Matters found that 50 of the top 100 advertisers from prior to Musk’s takeover had either announced they would stop, or seemingly stopped, advertising on the platform.

In our latest analysis, Media Matters found that the company’s ad revenue is still decimated. The company has earned an average monthly ad revenue of $69.5 million from roughly 1,900 average monthly advertisers in the last 11 months – 42% less revenue and 28% fewer advertisers than in the 11 months before Musk acquired the company.

It seems to me that the lack of advertisers on X could be part of the reason why Elon Musk is trying to emphasize new premium subscription tiers. To my knowledge, the price of those premium subscriptions plans hasn’t been officially announced yet. In the meantime, the bizarre ads that are appearing on X might be what influences people to leave the platform.

X Working On New Premium Subscription Tiers To Let Users Remove Ads

Elon Musk’s X platform (formerly Twitter) has been undergoing a lot of profound changes since it was acquired by the billionaire last year, as he wants to turn the social network into a mega app for calls and even payments. In the meantime, It seems Musk wants to expand the X Premium paid service by breaking it up into different tiers, including one that removes all adds, 9to5 Mac reported.

If you’re not familiar with the name X Premium, that’s because the service was called Twitter Blue before the platform’s rebrand, 9to5 Mac reported. Those who pay for X Premium have access to some exclusive features, such as customizing the app icon, an edit posts button, text formatting, longer posts and videos, and access to X Pro (formerly TweetDeck).

Currently, X Premium subscribers may see fewer ads in their timeline compared to users who don’t pay to use X. But in the future, Musk may give users the option of eliminating ads for good – at a higher price, of course.

Mashable reported that Twitter/X is continuing to throw monetization plans against the wall to see what sticks. It’s latest questionable projectile? Subscription tiers.

According to Mashable, developer and leaker @aaronp613 has dug into the app’s recent iOS update for more details on X’s proposed subscription tiers. Confirming the three-tier subscription system, aaronp613 found that Basic users will still see ads in their For You page, Standard users will have half the amount of ads (the current X Premium subscription experience), and Plus users will have no ads at all.

Subscribing will presumably do more than just reduce ads, though it isn’t clear what other perks might be included, or how X might distribute them among each tier. Still, they’ll have to be some pretty impressive features to make handing over your hard-earned cash to the billionaire-owned microblogging site worth it.

SocialMedia Today reported: In essence, X is looking to spark more interest in its subscription offering by making it cheaper for people to buy a blue checkmark, though they won’t get all the same benefits as the current $8 per month version. It remains to be seen if they’ll even get a blue tick, though presumably, the stripped-down, cheaper version of X Premium would still include the marker of paid verification.

However, it’s the no ads version that’s likely to spark the most discussion and interest.

Meta, TikTok, and X are currently exploring ad-free subscription offerings, as a means to drive more sign-ups for their subscription plans, though the actual motivation may not be new revenue streams, as such, but could be specifically tied to evolving privacy rules in Europe.

SociaMedia Today reported that The Washington Post wrote that the move towards paid, ad-free access could actually align with EU rules on data collection, which essentially require social apps to offer a means for users to opt-out of data tracking for personalization, if they so choose.

By providing a paid option, that may enable each company to keep using data tracking tools, as users would technically then have a way to opt out. But rather than Apple’s iOS 14 update, which lets users simply block app tracking for free, the companies would be looking to make you pay for that privilege.

In my opinion, I don’t think the majority of the people still using X will want to spend money on premium subscriptions. It’s going to be hard for Elon Musk to convince people that paying for a subscription is a great idea after years and years of being able to use the platform for free.

SEC Sues Elon Musk In San Francisco Federal Court To Enforce Subpoena

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday asked a San Francisco federal court to order Elon Musk to comply with the agency’s ongoing investigation of his 2022 takeover of Twitter, the social-media platform he has since renamed X, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Musk was scheduled to provide testimony to the SEC on Sept. 15 but failed to appear at the agency’s San Francisco office, the agency’s filing says. The SEC later offered to allow Musk to testify closer to his home in Texas, but the agency’s efforts “were met with Musk’s blanket refusal to appear for testimony,” the SEC wrote.

The agency is probing Musk’s purchase of Twitter stock and his disclosures of his investment in the company, the filing says. The Wall Street Journal reported in May 2022 that the securities regulators were investigating Musk’s late disclosure of his stake.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Musk responded to the SEC’s move Thursday. “A comprehensive overhaul of these agencies is sorely needed, along with a commission to take punitive action against those individuals who have abused their regulatory power for personal and political gain,” he wrote. “Can’t wait for this to happen.”

The U.S.Securities And Exchange Commission posted a Litigation Release titled: “Elon R. Musk”. From the release:

SEC Files Subpoena Enforcement Action Against Elon R. Musk Seeking an Order Compelling his Attendance for investigative Testimony

The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced the that it has filed an application seeking an order directing Elon Musk (“Musk”) to comply with an investigative enforcement action calling for his appearance for testimony, which Musk failed to comply.

If a person or entity refuses to comply with a subpoena issued by SEC enforcement staff pursuant to a formal order of investigation, the Commission may file a subpoena enforcement action in federal district court seeking an order compelling compliance.

According to the SEC staff’s filing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the testimony subpoena to Musk relates to an ongoing investigation by the SEC regarding, among other things, potential violations of various provisions of the federal securities laws in connection with (a) Musk’s 2022 purchases of Twitter, Inc. (“Twitter”) stock, and (b) Musk’s 2022statements and SEC filings relating to Twitter. According to the filing, the SEC seeks Musk’s testimony to obtain information not already in the SEC’s possession that is relevant to its legitimate and lawful investigation.

According to the filing, Musk failed to appear for testimony as required by the investigative subpoena served by the SEC, despite: (1) agreeing to appear for testimony in a mutually agreed upon date in September 2023; (2) having been served with a subpoena in May 2023 requiring his appearance for testimony in the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office on that mutually agreed upon date; (3) raising no objection to the subpoena from May 2023 until two days before his scheduled testimony date in September 2023, when Musk notified the SEC that he would not appear. According to the filing, Musk attempted to justify his refusal to comply with the subpoena by raising, for the first time, several spurious objections.

The SEC staff’s application seeks an order from the court directing Musk to comply with the subpoena. The application is subject to the courts’s ruling. The SEC staff is continuing its fact-finding investigation and, to date, has not concluded that any individual or entity has violated the federal securities laws.

In my opinion, the SEC is being serious about Musk appearing for testimony regarding the potential violations the SEC wrote about. It does not seem to me that Musk is interested in talking to the SEC at all. This could potentially pose some legal trouble for Musk.

FTC Says Elon Musk May Have Jeopardized Data Privacy And Security

Court filings have revealed new details about the FTC’s investigation into Elon Musk over his handling of privacy and security issues at X. In newly public court documents, the Department of Justice says Musk fostered a “chaotic environment” at Twitter, now known as X, that prevented officials from complying with their obligations to the FTC, Engadget reported.

According to Engadget, the FTC investigation stems from a 2022 settlement between FTC and Twitter over the company’s use of deceptive ad targeting under the leadership of Jack Dorsey. Prior to Musk’s takeover, the company paid a $150 million fine and signed on to an agreement to implement specific privacy and security measures. It was this additional data protection measures that apparently fell by the wayside once Musk took control, triggering new scrutiny from the regulator.

In March, the FTC began investigating the rushed rollout of Twitter Blue, which reportedly launched without the privacy and security review required under the FTC order, as well as Musk’s handling of the so-called “Twitter Files.”

CNN reported that Elon Musk should be forced to testify in an expansive US government probe of X, the company formerly known as Twitter, the US government said.

The government said mass layoffs and other decisions Musk made raised questions about X’s ability to comply with the law and to protect users’ privacy.

According to CNN, the US government’s attempt to compel Musk’s testimony is the latest turn in an investigation that predates Musk’s acquisition of X that has intensified due to Musk’s own actions, according to a court filing by the Justice Department on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission.

The court filing dated Monday cites depositions with multiple former X executives, including its former chief information security officer and former chief privacy officer, who testified that a barrage of layoffs and resignations following Musk’s $44 billion takeover may have hindered X from meeting its security obligations under a 2011 FTC consent agreement.

The Guardian reported that the US Department of Justice alleged in a legal filing on Tuesday that depositions from former employees at Twitter, now rebranded X, raised “serious questions” about whether the company was complying with an order imposed by the consumer and competition watchdog, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

“The information obtained revealed a chaotic environment at the company that raised serious questions about whether and how Musk and other leaders were ensuring X Corp’s compliance with the 2022 administrative order,” the filing said.

According to The Guardian, Twitter’s former director of security engineering, Andrew Sayler, testified that he had “ongoing questions about Elon’s commitment to the overall security and privacy of the organization” because he thought “the manner in which Elon was requesting us to grant access to third parties that had not undergone our regular vetting process … [had] some degree of disregard for the overall sensitivity and security at that level of access”.

In a further example from the filing, another employee said the Tesla CEO “insisted on launching the new Twitter Blue user verification services on an accelerated basis, despite staffing limitations.” Musk, according to the testimony, insisted that the service had to launch “right now” even though Twitter’s staffing was reduced so drastically that remaining employees were “struggling to keep up.”

Personally, I think that Elon Musk should have slowed down the changes he made on (then) Twitter (and later) X. I think this lawsuit could have been avoided if Elon Musk didn’t try to do a speed-run of scattered policies shortly after he purchased Twitter.

Elon Musk Strips Headlines Off News Links On Twitter In Overhaul

X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, is planning a major change in how news articles appear on the service, stripping out the headline and other text so that tweets with links display only an article’s lead image, according to material viewed by Fortune.

Roughly four hours after the publication of this article, Elon Musk confirmed these plans, posting that “this is coming from me directly,” and it “will greatly improve the esthetics.”

The change means that anyone sharing a link on X – from individual users to publishers – would need to manually add their own text alongside the links they share on the service; otherwise the tweet will display only an image with no context other than an overlay of the URL. While clicking on the image will still lead to the full article on the publisher’s website, the change could have major implications for publisher who rely on social media to drive traffic to their sites as well as for advertisers, Fortune reported.

According to a source with knowledge of the matter, the change is indeed being pushed directly by X owner Elon Musk. The primary objective appears to be to reduce the height of tweets, thus allowing more posts to fit within the portion of the timeline that appears on the screen. Musk also believes the change will help curb clickbait, the source said.

TechCrunch reported that currently, a Twitter card for a news article or a blog post shows the headline and summary text (just on the web) along with the header image of the preview card of a post. However, if the proposed change comes through, X will only show the image with a link in a post. That means if a publication or a blog doesn’t post any accompanying text with the link, users will only see the link and the image for that article.

According to TechCrunch, Musk also recently said that journalists vying for more freedom and higher income should directly publish on X. Elon Musk tweeted: “If you’re a journalist who wants more freedom to write and a higher income, then publish directly on this platform!”

The Guardian reported the move may be an attempt to drive people to sign up for X’s premium service. With the shortened links, users could be inclined to include more text along with their posts. The premium service allows a single post of up to 25,000 characters.

It is not immediately clear how it will impact advertisers on the platform, which Musk claimed in July had 540 million monthly users.

With the changes, Musk is pitching X as a more relevant platform for content creators. Premium subscribers can now post longer videos, their posts are shown higher up and they also receive a cut of ad sales.

According to The Guardian, Musk has made a number of abrupt changes to Twitter since he took over as owner in October 2022, many of which have negatively impacted the news media that make up a large portion of its user base. The billionaire has suspended journalists from the platform, removed verification from many media figures, and attempted to launch his own journalistic endeavors with a project called the Twitter Files, in which he had reporters publish “investigations” directly on the platform.

It seems to me that Elon Musk doesn’t really want to support Twitter very much at all. He appears to be doing his best to push people away from using Twitter by making bad decisions that will likely cause harm to many marginalized users.

Elon Musk’s X Imposed A 5-Second Delay On Links To Meta Apps

The company formerly known as Twitter on Tuesday slowed the speed with which users could access links to the New York Times, Facebook, and other news organizations and online competitors, a move that appeared targeted at companies that have drawn the ire of owner Elon Musk, The Washington Post reported.

Users who clicked a link on Musk’s website, now called X, for one of the targeted websites were made to wait about five seconds before seeing the page, according to tests conducted Tuesday by The Washington Post.

According to The Washington Post, on Tuesday afternoon, hours after this story was first published, X began reversing the throttling on some of the sites, dropping the delay times back to zero. It was unknown if all the throttled websites had normal service restored.

The Post’s analysis found that links to most other sites were unaffected – including those to The Washington Post, Fox News, and social media services such as Mastodon and YouTube – with the shortened links being routed to their final destination in a second or less. A user first flagged the delays early Tuesday on the technology discussion forum Hacker News.

Someone on Hacker News posted: Go to Twitter and click on a link going to any url on “NYTimes.com” or “threads.net” and you’ll see about a ~5 second delay before t.co forwards you to the right address. Twitter won’t ban domains they don’t like, but will waste your time if you visit them. I’ve been tracking the NYT delay ever since it was added (8/4, roughly noon Pacific time), and the delay is so consistent it’s obviously deliberate.

Variety reported that X, Elon Musk’s new name for the social network formerly known as Twitter, appears to be adding an approximately five-second delay to links that are redirected to certain sites, including the New York Times, Reuters, and Meta’s family of apps including Facebook, Instagram and Threads.

According to Variety, links posted on X to Bluesy, a decentralized social network backed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, and Substack are subject to the delay. As noted by the Washington Post, the companies and services whose links are being delayed by X “have previously been signaled out by Musk for ridicule or attack.”

X’s apparent throttling of links to certain domains was first flagged by a user on Y Combinator’s Hacker News discussion forum, who claimed to have first noticed the delay in New York Times links on Aug. 4. X uses its own link-shortening service, t.co. A message on that site says “Twitter uses the t.co domain as part of a service to protect users from harmful activity, to provide value for the developer ecosystem, and as a quality signal for surfacing relevant, interesting Tweets.” Variety reported.

Engadget reported that Elon Musk is, once again, punishing websites run by his perceived enemies. The website formerly known as Twitter seems to be interfering with links to The New York Times, Mastodon, Bluesy, Threads, and Substack to make them load noticeably slower.

Personally, I find it annoying that Elon Musk has chosen to delay the posts from accounts he doesn’t happen to like. Fortunately, Hacker News and The Washington Post noticed what was happening, wrote about it, and (hopefully) stopped the problem.