Twitter's Content Moderation Concerns Remain as Major Brands Advertise Amidst Neo-Nazi Propaganda

Since Elon Musk took over as CEO of Twitter last year, the platform has experienced strained relationships with advertisers. Content moderation concerns prompted major brands like Disney, Microsoft, and the NBA to withdraw their advertisements. However, the selection of Linda Yaccarino, a former NBC Universal executive, as the new CEO of Twitter alleviated concerns among advertisers. Her appointment raised hopes for a better rapport of the brand with the social media platforms. Nevertheless, recent occurrences have brought attention to the persistent obstacles that Twitter encounters in maintaining a safe space for brands. Situations have arisen in which advertisements from well-known companies like Microsoft, Adobe, and Disney were discovered alongside content promoting neo-Nazi ideology.

After Elon Musk took over as the head of Twitter and he implemented substantial reductions to the content moderation teams, prominent brands such as General Mills, Audi, and GM withdrew their advertisements due to concerns about protecting their brand image. The prevalence of hate speech on the platform increased, resulting in a significant decline in Twitter's revenue when these advertisers departed. Nevertheless, under the new leadership of CEO Linda Yaccarino, many of these brands have resumed their advertising activities on the platform. According to Musk, the majority of advertisers have either come back or expressed their intention to do so.

In November of last year, GroupM, the advertising industry's largest agency, categorized Twitter ads as risky for brands. They were concerned about verified accounts pretending to be influential users and the downsizing of Musk's staff. However, GroupM removed this categorization after Yaccarino took over as CEO. Despite this positive development, Twitter's policies and content moderation approaches have not undergone substantial changes. Alejandra Caraballo, a legal expert specializing in civil rights and a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School, raises concerns about Twitter's ability to serve as a secure advertising platform for prominent brands.

Caraballo observed a rise in advertisements on Twitter and took it upon herself to examine if these ads were being shown alongside posts from neo-Nazi and terrorist accounts that she follows for research purposes. Her investigation revealed that ads from well-known brands such as Disney, ESPN, the NBA, Adobe, and Microsoft were being displayed in proximity to content that promotes antisemitism. One example was the appearance of ads when searching for "Europa: The Last Battle," a lengthy film containing propaganda with antisemitic themes. Instead of addressing the underlying issue by moderating the content itself, Twitter chose to limit the specific search, a response that deeply troubles Caraballo.

Caraballo expanded her investigation and discovered additional instances where advertisements were displayed alongside offensive content that brands usually steer clear of. Although explicit antisemitic terms and derogatory language are identified and flagged, more subtle or less familiar terms may go unnoticed. This situation is worrisome because brands that advertise on Twitter might unintentionally contribute financial support to extremist content, leading to the normalization and dissemination of far-right propaganda to previously untapped audiences.

In summary, despite requests for comment, Twitter's press department only offered an automated response regarding the recent incidents. These incidents underscore the importance of enhancing content moderation on the platform to safeguard brands and prevent their ads from being displayed alongside extremist and hateful content. As more major brands resume advertising on Twitter, ensuring brand safety becomes crucial.

H/T: Business Insider

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