Twitter messed up its advertising system after it tries to troubleshoot the Nazi-ad targeting problem

Tech companies often find themselves in the midst of controversies and there is no exception for Twitter as well. From harassment cases, child abuse, to leaked account information – the micro-blogging network has faced, apologized, and rectified it all.

Now, it has another issue creeping on its back. And this one involves the advertisers.

Last week, BBC News revealed that anyone could pay to target the site’s most hateful users with ad campaigns. For example, ads targeted with keywords like ‘Islamophobia’ would reach thousands of Twitter users.

In their response, Twitter published an apology and claimed to rectify the issue as they gained awareness.

However, Gizmodo reports that the issue is not rectified. In fact, a quick test shows that it is relatively easy to target Twitteratis using a combination of keywords such as ‘men’s rights,’ ‘incels,’ and ‘8chan.’ Gizmodo also said that it was able to ‘boost’ a tweet using the keywords and reach nearly 2,000 Twitter users within three hours. And that too for only $2.20.

Similar results were also shown when ads using the keywords by BBC were used.

Media outlets reached out to Twitter again for a clarification who said that many of the search words listed are listed as ‘hateful content’ and prohibited. However, the company cannot stop the advertisers from throwing in the keywords in their ads. It will, of course, not register them as ‘targetable.’

Nevertheless, advertising experts remain confused as to how BBC and Gizmodo both were able to attract hundreds of viewers using the keywords suggested by BBC. It is also hard to decipher how Twitter calculates the potential audience you may be able to reach using the non-appropriate keywords.

Interestingly, Twitter did make some changes while it was rectifying the problem in question – it managed to throw in a tool that prevented us from running ads at all. In fact, Gizmodo ran six separate ad campaigns, using both – the offensive phrases and the kosher keywords like ‘cats’ but the result remained the same. The ads gave zero impressions while $0 was spent for the purpose as well.


Third-party advertisers also confirmed our findings and said that any ad campaign that is carried out after Twitter made amendments is garnering ‘ZERO’ results.

Twitter was again contacted to address the issue. However, their representative stated that they were working on the ad platform and refused to comment further.

On paper, at least, Twitter has offered its side of the story and said that it forbids the use of ‘sensitive’ keywords for ad targeting, especially those that are related to race, politics, religion, or sexual orientation.

In an official policy page, the company says that each and every advertiser has to follow their guidelines and thus, are requested to thoroughly go through the specified criteria.

Unfortunately, for Twitter, their platform attracts the ‘right’ people during the ‘right’ conversation. And talking about ‘Nazis’ or ‘inappropriate content’ is garnering the ‘wrong’ attention.



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