X filing “thermonuclear lawsuit” in Texas should be “fatal,” Media Matters says

X filing “thermonuclear lawsuit” in Texas should be “fatal,” Media Matters says reader comments 87

Ever since Elon Musk's X Corp sued Media Matters for America (MMFA) over a pair of reports that X (formerly Twitter) claims caused an advertiser exodus in 2023, one big question has remained for onlookers: Why is this fight happening in Texas?

In a motion to dismiss filed in Texas' northern district last month, MMFA argued that X's lawsuit should be dismissed not just because of a "fatal jurisdictional defect," but "dismissal is also required for lack of venue."

Notably, MMFA is based in Washington, DC, while "X is organized under Nevada law and maintains its principal place of business in San Francisco, California, where its own terms of service require users of its platform to litigate any disputes."

"Texas is not a fair or reasonable forum for this lawsuit," MMFA argued, suggesting that "the case must be dismissed or transferred" because "neither the parties nor the cause of action has any connection to Texas."

Last Friday, X responded to the motion to dismiss, claiming that the lawsuit—which Musk has described as "thermonuclear"—was appropriately filed in Texas because MMFA "intentionally" targeted readers and at least two X advertisers located in Texas, Oracle and AT&T. According to X, because MMFA "identified Oracle, a Texas-based corporation, by name in its coverage," MMFA "cannot claim surprise at being held to answer for its conduct in Texas." X also claimed that Texas has jurisdiction because Musk resides in Texas and "makes numerous critical business decisions about X while in Texas."

This so-called targeting of Texans caused a "substantial part" of alleged financial harms that X attributes to MMFA's reporting, X alleged.


According to X, MMFA specifically targeted X in Texas by sending newsletters sharing its reports with "hundreds or thousands" of Texas readers and by allegedly soliciting donations from Texans to support MMFA's reporting.

But MMFA pushed back, saying that "Texas subscribers comprise a disproportionately small percentage of Media Matters’ newsletter recipients" and that MMFA did "not solicit Texas donors to fund Media Matters’s journalism concerning X." Because of this, X's "efforts to concoct claim-related Texas contacts amount to a series of shots in the dark, uninformed guesses, and irrelevant tangents," MMFA argued.

On top of that, MMFA argued that X could not attribute any financial harms allegedly caused by MMFA's reports to either of the two Texas-based advertisers that X named in its court filings. Oracle, MMFA said, "by X’s own admission,... did not withdraw its ads” from X, and AT&T was not named in MMFA's reporting, and thus, "any investigation AT&T did into its ad placement on X was of its own volition and is not plausibly connected to Media Matters." MMFA has argued that advertisers, particularly sophisticated Fortune 500 companies, made their own decisions to stop advertising on X, perhaps due to widely reported increases in hate speech on X or even Musk's own seemingly antisemitic posting.

Ars could not immediately reach X, Oracle, or AT&T for comment.

X’s suit allegedly designed to break MMFA

MMFA President Angelo Carusone, who is a defendant in X's lawsuit, told Ars that X's recent filing has continued to "expose" the lawsuit as a "meritless and vexatious effort to inflict maximum damage on critical research and reporting about the platform."

"It's solely designed to basically break us or stop us from doing the work that we were doing originally," Carusone said, confirming that the lawsuit has negatively impacted MMFA's hate speech research on X.

MMFA argued that Musk could have sued in other jurisdictions, such as Maryland, DC, or California, and MMFA would not have disputed the venue, but Carusone suggested that Musk sued in Texas in hopes that it would be "a more friendly jurisdiction."

According to the Dallas Observer, "two judges for the Northern District’s Fort Worth Division are Reed O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee, and Mark T. Pittman, a Donald Trump appointee," suggesting "this was a strategic move" from X "to get this case before a court that they think will be more likely to administer a more favorable outcome."

Internet law expert Eric Goldman told Ars that, like the recently dismissed X lawsuit against the Center for Countering Digital Hate, "the Media Matters lawsuit seems to be another clear example of an X lawsuit brought against critics primarily motivated by punishment and deterrence, not protecting its legal rights."

While Goldman said that generally "judges are reluctant to dismiss lawsuits for a lack of jurisdiction,... plaintiffs in the 5th Circuit (which sets the rules for federal courts in Texas) must overcome heightened standards to establish jurisdiction over Internet activities."

"Given the rigorous jurisdictional standards in the Northern District of Texas, I think there's a good chance that Media Matters will get the case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction," Goldman told Ars.

MMFA does not expect the court to rule on the motion to dismiss anytime soon, Carusone told Ars. On the same day that X filed its response to MMFA's motion to dismiss, X also opposed MMFA's request for a temporary stay on discovery in the case. MMFA must respond to both of those filings over the next two weeks before a judge would be expected to weigh in.


"We might not get a response for that for months," Carusone told Ars. "And in the meantime, it's very possible that the discovery process could proceed."

Goldman told Ars that even if MMFA's case proceeds in Texas or another jurisdiction, "Media Matters is likely to win on the merits, whichever court ultimately reaches those." Goldman expects that "X will struggle to establish the required falsity and bad intent" to prove its business disparagement claim, and claims alleging interference with X's advertising contracts "are exceptionally hard to win, and the publication of an investigative report almost never could satisfy those standards."

"The lawsuit's lack of merit isn't surprising," Goldman told Ars. "Musk and X have shown a willingness to throw money at lawyers regardless of the claims' merit. Those lawsuits are celebrated by the fans of X/Musk, but everyone else recognizes them as vindictive, substantively weak, and a misuse of the court system."

MMFA: X discovery requests “wildly inappropriate”

MMFA asked the Texas court to stay discovery in the case until after ruling on the motion to dismiss, accusing X of "extremely broad and burdensome discovery requests far beyond the scope of its" suit.

X is seeking "internal communications related to X in any way, communications with third parties, and extensive documentation regarding Media Matters’s finances," MMFA said, including documentation "dating all the way back to April 14, 2021."

According to X, requesting three years' worth of documents is appropriate because X wants to establish a pattern showing how MMFA shifted its strategy for reporting on X after Musk got involved with the platform. The 29 discovery requests that X has submitted to MMFA so far date back to April 2021 because that "is less than one year before Mr. Musk began buying" Twitter shares.

Carusone told Ars that X broadly requesting MMFA's communications—"even where those communications have nothing to do with X"—leads individual reporters and researchers to hold back on researching X. On top of that, attorneys general suing MMFA over the X reporting is a "novel" strategy that MMFA reporters have yet to see play out in court and could impact "future reporting" on X. That strategy, MMFA described in a court filing, is intended to force MMFA to defend against claims in multiple states at once.

Either the attorney generals' strategy is going to "fail miserably," Carusone said—"and then maybe they'll have to reset or walk away from this tactic... —or it's going to be successful, and they'll just do it to everybody else."

MMFA plans to continue monitoring X, while Carusone hopes that favorable decisions in both the X lawsuit and MMFA's lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will "give people a little bit more confidence and certainty that they can proceed doing their work without this kind of harassment and retaliation."


A decision on MMFA's request for an injunction to stop Paxton's challenge is expected in the coming weeks, Carusone told Ars.

Currently, discovery in X's lawsuit against MMFA is scheduled to resume until July 29, while the trial is scheduled for January 2025. X argued that a temporary stay on discovery could delay both of these deadlines, which MMFA seemingly expects wouldn't matter if the motion to dismiss is granted.

Carusone told Ars that it's "well established" that "litigants are not entitled to just rifle through their adversaries' sensitive internal documents, simply because they filed a frivolous lawsuit," arguing that "the stay that we've applied in discovery is appropriate, partly to save everybody time and resources, because the case should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction."

"Much of X's discovery requests that they've issued so far are not just burdensome, they're wildly inappropriate," Carusone told Ars. "They're seeking things like donor identities, financial statements, and confidential communication with partner organizations that had nothing to do with the case."

"It is a strategy designed to hurt" MMFA, Carusone said.