Several Canadian companies have decided to pull their advertising from X, after discovering that their ads were appearing in the feeds of certain “offensive” accounts.
An investigation by CBC News found about two dozen social media accounts that were linked to white supremacists and others the network branded as “extremist” who had advertising from Samsung Canada, CF Montréal and Pathways Alliance in their feeds.
The Tech Transparency Project, a watchdog group, found that Samsung ads were circulating through feeds that they had previously flagged for spreading antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric.
Samsung ads were also found in the feeds of Libs of TikTok, an account that LGBTQ advocates have alleged is hateful towards transgender people.
Carl Benjamin, also known as Sargon of Akkad, was found to have ads appear in his feed from Pathways Alliance, which represents Cenovus Energy and Suncor. Benjamin has been accused of making racist and misogynist comments in the past.
Pathways Alliance ads were also appearing in the feed of a far-right fitness group.
B’nai Brith, a Jewish advocacy group, had its ads appearing in Richard Spencer’s feed, a white-nationalist who led the 2017 alt-right march infamous for members chanting “Jews will not replace us.”
CEO of B’nai Brith Canada Michael Mostyn said his organization has no plans to stop advertising on X, despite what antisemitism may appear on the platform formerly known as Twitter.
“B’nai Brith has made a conscious decision to remain on social media,” said Mostyn in an interview. “So if you’re making a conscious decision to stay in the social media space … there’s a lot of good and bad that comes with all of that.”
However, Bell Media has since suspended its advertising on X, following news that its Quebec TV network Noovo had appeared in the feed of the far-right fitness group.
The Noovo ad appeared over a post that called journalists “priests of ruin” and the slogan “all journos are bastards.”
“Despite putting measures in place to protect Noovo from such a situation, it seems that X considered the offensive content from a third party to be moderate, which allowed our ad to appear alongside it,” said Bell Media spokesperson Patrick Tremblay, in a statement to CBC News.
“This situation is unacceptable. As a result, we have interrupted Bell Media advertising campaigns on X.”
Angus Reid, a firm that conducts polling and research, found that its ads had appeared on an account called Anti White Watch, which the Tech Transparency Project said spreads antisemitic and other racist conspiracy theories.
“Our team met with X representatives in the past month to confirm that our ads account is set up with the most stringent sensitivity settings X offers. In this case, those controls appear to have failed,” wrote Spencer Reynolds, director of marketing and communication at Angus Reid, in an email.
“Angus Reid Forum has ceased all activity on X indefinitely pending a comprehensive review.”
Advertising on X has dropped by over 50% since it was bought by Elon Musk in October 2022.
One of Musk’s first moves after he bought the company was firing the staff responsible for content moderation.
In July 2023, he changed the name from Twitter to X.
Musk also restored the accounts of dozens of users who had previously been banned from the platform for violating community standards, including the account of former U.S. president Donald Trump.
Advertisers on X are allowed to request the type of content that their ads will appear alongside but there are currently no systems in place to monitor and categorize all content accurately.
President of the Toronto-based advertising firm Cairns Oneil Devon MacDonald, began advising his clients to stop advertising on X last year.
“We reached out to Twitter at the time to ask them a little about what brand safety controls were going to be applied with this new vision for the platform, and they weren’t able to give us any satisfactory answer,” said MacDonald.
“A brand wants to communicate their brand message. They want to communicate with consumers in a positive way that puts their product in a positive position. Harmful content works against that for them.”
Other major companies like Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Discovery and IBM, have announced they would be pausing their advertising campaigns on X.
While speaking before an audience in New York City last month, Musk said “If somebody is going to try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go f–k yourself.”