Thursday 29 September 2022

Corporations pause marketing campaigns on Twitter after ads appear alongside accounts associated with child porn

 Big corporations, including Dyson, Mazda, Forbes, and PBS Kids, stated that they paused online marketing campaigns on Twitter after learning some advertisements appeared next to accounts and tweets associated with child sexual exploitation. Reuters first reported the findings on Wednesday.

Cybersecurity group Ghost Data conducted research to uncover and report child pornography accounts on the social media site. Ghost Data's investigation discovered that more than 30 advertisers appeared alongside Twitter profile pages that had posted links to child pornography.

Walt Disney Co., NBCUniversal, Coca-Cola Co., Forbes, Cole Haan, and a children's hospital were among the companies to have their marketing campaigns inadvertently placed next to the exploitive material.

Reuters found that some of the phrases used in the inappropriate tweets included "rape," "teens," "13+," "young looking nudes," and "trading teen/child" content.

Twitter released an email to advertisers on Wednesday and said it had "discovered that ads were running within Profiles that were involved with publicly selling or soliciting child sexual abuse material."  

Over 90% of the platform's revenue is generated from online advertisers.

Reactions from advertisers

David Maddocks, brand president at Cole Haan, told Reuters that the business was "horrified" to learn its ads were appearing near accounts and tweets associated with such content. "Either Twitter is going to fix this, or we'll fix it by any means we can, which includes not buying Twitter ads," he said. 

A Walt Disney spokesperson stated that the company would look into the situation and "ensure that the digital platforms on which we advertise, and the media buyers we use, strengthen their efforts to prevent such errors from recurring."

"Twitter needs to fix this problem ASAP, and until they do, we are going to cease any further paid activity on Twitter," said a Forbes spokesperson.

Mazda USA halted advertising with Twitter, and a spokesperson told Reuters, "There is no place for this type of content online." 

NBCUniversal also confirmed that it halted ads on the social media platform.

Response from Twitter

A spokesperson for the social media platform stated that Twitter "has zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation" and explained that the company would invest more resources in finding solutions.

According to Twitter's annual transparency report last year, the social media site removed 1 million accounts associated with child sexual abuse content and filed 87,000 reports with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Twitter previously stated that it does not have enough resources to handle the excessive child exploitation content posted on its website. The social media platform noted that the amount of material has "grown exponentially" while the company's ability "detect and manage the growth has not."

Andrea Stroppa, the founder of Ghost Data, said in response to Twitter's explanation of limited resources that his small five-person team identified 500 accounts in 20 days that either shared or requested child pornographic material without the advantage of having access to Twitter's internal resources.

The complete list of accounts was shared with Twitter, and the platform reported that they were all permanently suspended.

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