New Research: Major Advertisers Are Shelling Out Millions to Have Their Brands Featured Adjacent to Twitter's Most Toxic Content
NEW YORK — On Thursday, the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a member of the #StopToxicTwitter coalition, released research showing Elon Musk’s ongoing failure to protect the brand safety of Twitter’s few remaining major advertisers, including companies with advertising and sponsorship deals for the upcoming Super Bowl.
In light of this research, the #StopToxicTwitter coalition — consisting of more than 60 civil-society and civil-rights groups — is renewing its call for companies to join the 500+ advertisers that stopped advertising on Twitter and send a strong message to Elon Musk that they will not bankroll hate and disinformation. The advertiser exodus is a major contributor to the 70-percent drop in Twitter's December revenue over the previous year, according to Standard Media Index.
CCDH research features screen grabs of instances where Twitter has displayed ads from brands including Amazon, Apple TV, Merrill Lynch, NFL and Prime Video next to tweets from 10 self-proclaimed neo-Nazis and others known for publishing hateful content and dangerous conspiracy theories. Each of the 10 accounts surveyed was reinstated under Musk’s leadership, even after committing gross violations of Twitter’s policies to protect users from lies and hate.
CCDH’s analysis estimates that continuing to place these ads next to the accounts of these 10 bad actors alone could generate up to $19 million in annual advertising revenue for Twitter. The analysis shows that the 10 accounts have already amassed 2.5 billion tweet impressions, putting them on track to reach 20 billion impressions over the course of a year. CCDH notes that this research provides further evidence that Twitter’s decision to restore these toxic accounts is “driven by [Musk’s] desperate drive for revenues.”
The restored accounts that CCDH monitored include those of misogynist and suspected abuser Andrew Tate; anti-vaccine propagandist Robert Malone; neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin; disinformation website Gateway Pundit; COVID conspiracy theorists Emerald Robinson, Rogan O'Handley, Peter McCullough and Stew Peters; antisemite Ronnie Steven Islam; and white supremacist Anthime Gionet (also known as “Baked Alaska”).
In one example, an Amazon Prime Video ad promoting a film starring Jennifer Lopez appears next to a tweet by Andrew Anglin in which he claims that the “only career that a woman is actually capable of on merit is prostitution.” In another, an NFL Super Bowl playoff ad featuring comedian Kevin Hart is displayed adjacent to anti-vaccine disinformation posted by Emerald Robinson. An Apple ad featuring actor Timothée Chalamet is displayed next to a tweet in which Rogan O’Handley promotes the debunked claim that Ukraine was developing biological weapons with the assistance of the U.S. government.
Apple Music is the official sponsor of the NFL Super Bowl halftime show, while Amazon is an NFL national media partner. Apple, Amazon and the NFL have refused to join the hundreds of advertisers that have paused advertising on Twitter since Elon Musk took over the social-media network.
Last November, Musk reneged on his commitment to some #StopToxicTwitter coalition members to strengthen content moderation. #StopToxicTwitter has urged the platform’s largest advertisers to pull their Twitter ads unless and until Musk commits to better brand safeguards and content-moderation standards.
“Our research shows that there is a depressingly banal answer to why Elon Musk would reinstate the accounts of self-professed Nazis, disinformation actors, misogynists and homophobes — it’s highly profitable,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. “Musk promised Twitter that he wouldn’t let it descend into a hellscape. But that’s exactly what he’s done. Brands’ ads are appearing right next to Nazi-level hate and lies that can kill. Twitter can’t claim anymore that they don’t know this is happening. At some point, the toxic degradation of Twitter’s brand will start to impact advertisers’ own brand equity — it’s time for those brands to do the right thing and stop enabling an increasingly toxic Twitter.”
“The CCDH research is definitive: Major advertisers are still paying Twitter tens of millions of dollars to drag their brands through the mud,” said Jessica J. González, co-CEO of Free Press and co-lead of the #StopToxicTwitter campaign. “Brands shouldn’t let their money fuel Twitter’s toxicity; they must act now by putting their money where their values are — and not in the hands of Musk and his dangerous band of liars and extremists. Musk’s embrace of conspiracy theorists and bigots has alienated advertisers and investors and left Twitter teetering on the edge of financial ruin and moral bankruptcy. This Sunday we’ll see Super Bowl commercials featuring the very same kitchen-table brands that continue to show up on Twitter adjacent to content from neo-Nazis, misogynists and white supremacists. It’s time for companies like Apple and Amazon to stop funding Twitter’s hate and lies.”
“Twitter under Elon Musk is a red-pill Pez dispenser dolling out hate and conspiracies,” said Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America. “Twitter doesn’t just lack brand-safety policies these days; the platform actively promotes extremism. Every day that goes by, it becomes more apparent that the only way for companies to protect their brands from Twitter’s increasingly toxic reputation is to avoid advertising and enabling Twitter’s engine of hate.”
“No amount of shiny Super Bowl commercials can make up for paying to place ads next to tweets by neo-Nazis and white supremacists,” said Nicole Gill, executive director of Accountable Tech. “Elon Musk has made it clear that he will stop at nothing for clicks and profit — and companies that continue to play his game are only hurting their own brand and bottom line. It’s time for companies to stop funding Musk’s toxic Twitter. Full stop.”
Given the strong Super Bowl presence of Apple and the NFL, the #StopToxicTwitter coalition will focus increased public pressure on these two companies to join the exodus of advertisers from Twitter. The coalition will also reach out to other advertisers featured in CCDH’s research — including Amazon, Merrill Lynch, Peacock TV, Prime Video, The Wall Street Journal and Wendy’s — to urge them to stop all Twitter advertisements.