‘Sad day for free speech’: Media Matters for America announces layoffs following Elon Musk lawsuit

Media Matters for America, a non-profit media watchdog, have announced a round of layoffs, which they have said are linked to the financial strain caused by a lawsuit filed against them by tech CEO Elon Musk.

Founded in 2004, Media Matters describes itself as a “progressive research and information centre dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the US media”.

In the announcement of layoffs yesterday (May 23), President of Media Matters Angelo Carusone said: “We’re confronting a legal assault on multiple fronts and given how rapidly the media landscape is shifting, we need to be extremely intentional about how we allocate resources in order to stay effective. Nobody does what Media Matters does.”

Carusone said the layoffs were to “ensure that we are sustainable, sturdy, and successful for whatever lies ahead”. Nearly 20 staffers at the organisation, including researchers and producers, were affected by the layoffs.

Ari Drennen, the LGBTQ+ program director at Media Matters, wrote on X that many of her “best colleagues” lost their jobs as a result of the layoffs.

“However you feel about our work, it should worry you that any billionaire could do this to any outlet at any time for any reason. It’s a sad day for free speech,” she added.

The worst people on the internet fear and loathe Media Matters like nobody else because we hold them accountable for their lies like nobody else. Their grift works better in the dark, and that’s the goal of all this. pic.twitter.com/PVdooUnF7O

— Ari Drennen (@AriDrennen) May 23, 2024

Musk launched what he called a “thermonuclear” lawsuit after Media Matters reported that there was a litany of “pro-Nazi content” on X (formerly known as Twitter), which Musk owns, alongside corporate ads from Apple, Bravo, Oracle, Xfinity, and IBM.

The non-profit claimed that Musk was continuing “his descent into white nationalist and antisemitic conspiracy theories”, while their report led to Apple, Disney, and Comcast suspending their advertising on X.

Media Matters also reported in late 2022 that there had been a significant increase of anti-LGBTQ+ hate on X since Musk took over the platform.

Musk posted about filing the lawsuit on X, writing that he would target “Media Matters and ALL those who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company”, including but not limited to “their board, their donors, their network of dark money, all of them”.

“Media Matters is pure evil,” he added.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Texas, said that Media Matters “knowingly and maliciously manufactured side-by-side images” to show adverts alongside extremist content, suggesting that this wasn’t the reality for “typical X users”. It also said that Media Matters’ coverage was a “blatant smear campaign”

In response to the legal action, Carusone said at the time: “Far from the free-speech advocate he claims to be, Musk is a bully who threatens meritless lawsuits in 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.”

It is not clear when Media Matters and Musk are due to appear in court.

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