Two Brands Suspend Twitter/X Advertising After Pro-Nazi Ad Placement

Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, is once again in the centre of an advertising issue after ads for major brand names allegedly appeared alongside an account promoting fascism.

According to a CNN report, at least two brands have said they will suspend advertising on X after their ads appeared alongside an account which has shared content celebrating Hitler and the Nazi Party.

This development comes after X CEO Linda Yaccarino last week had publicly affirmed the company’s commitment to brand safety for advertisers, when she confirmed that the Elon Musk firm was close to break even.

Image credit: Comcast

Brand safety

X also last week said it had rolled out additional brand safety controls for advertisers, including the ability to avoid having their ads show next to “targeted hate speech, sexual content, gratuitous gore, excessive profanity, obscenity, spam, drugs.”

Alongside human content moderation reviewers that monitor for content that violates the platform’s rules, X said last week that it has automated software that determines where and how ads are placed on the platform.

“Your ads will only air next to content that is appropriate for you,” Yaccarino said during last week’s interview, CNN reported.

But CNN noted that a non-profit news watchdog Media Matters for America has documented in a report published Wednesday that ads for a host of mainstream brands have been run on an account, which has shared content celebrating Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Ads for brands including Adobe, Gilead Sciences, the University of Maryland’s football team, New York University Langone Hospital and NCTA-The Internet and Television Association were run alongside tweets from the account that had garnered hundreds of thousands of views, CNN observed.

Spokespeople for NCTA and pharmaceutical company Gilead said that they immediately paused their ad spending on X after CNN flagged their ads on the pro-Nazi account.

“We take the responsible placement of NCTA ads very seriously and are concerned that our post about the future of broadband technology appeared next to this highly disturbing content,” NCTA spokesperson Brian Dietz told CNN in a statement, adding that the organisation had opted into X’s brand safety measures including keyword restrictions and limiting its ad placement to the “home feed of target audiences.”

“Brand safety will remain an utmost priority for NCTA, which means suspending advertising on Twitter/X for the foreseeable future and heavily limiting NCTA’s organic presence on the platform,” Dietz was quoted as saying.

A spokesperson for Gilead told CNN that the company will pause its ad spending while X investigates the issue.

Meanwhile Jason Yellin, University of Maryland’s associate athletic director, expressed concern about the placement of the football team’s post on the account and said Maryland Football has not spent money on advertising on X since 2021.

This means that X may have promoted the post despite it not being a paid ad, CNN reported.

A spokesperson for NYU Langone said in a statement that the hospital was “completely surprised by this and are extremely concerned with any appearance of our advertising and brand next to obviously objectionable content that promotes hatred,” adding that it expects its advertising partners to “act responsibly.”

X did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.

But hours after the Media Matters report was published Wednesday morning and CNN observed additional brands’ ads running on the account, the account appeared to be suspended.

Advertising exodus

Elon Musk in July in a tweet had disclosed that due to a 50 percent drop in advertising revenue and a “heavy debt load,” Twitter or X is still losing money.

After Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion last October, the company’s value now stands around $15 billion, according to a May disclosure from a Fidelity fund.

Advertisers began fleeing Twitter after Musk acquired it largely in response to the return of previously banned users and changes to content moderation practices, which led them to fear their advertising would be displayed alongside inappropriate content.

That saw advertisers including General Motors and Pfizer, paused spending amid fears of a rise in divisive content on the platform, after Musk’s botched relaunch of Twitter’s subscription service.

Musk’s appointment of former NBCUniversal head of advertising Linda Yaccarino as Twitter chief executive in June was seen as a move to focus on the company’s advertising business.

Twitter also sought to woo big name brand names back to the platform by touting free ad space. This was reportedly done by offering to match advertisers’ ad spending up to $250,000.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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