Many major businesses including Dyson, Mazda, Forbes and PBS Kids have halted their marketing campaigns or stopped running ads on some parts of Twitter because their ads were displayed next to tweets that solicited child pornography, as reported by Reuters.
According to a new research from cybersecurity firm Ghost Data which was reviewed by Reuters, advertisements of more than 30 brands including Walt Disney, Coca Cola CO, NBC Universal and a children’s hospital were shown in Twitter profiles that offer links to the exploitative material.
In one case, an advertisement for Cole Haan, an American footwear and accessories brand, was featured alongside a tweet where the user said they were ‘’trading teen/child’’ content.
“We’re horrified,” said Cole Haan’s Brand President David Maddocks, after Reuters informed them about the incident. “Either Twitter is going to fix this, or we’ll fix it by any means we can, which includes not buying Twitter ads,” he added.
In another case, a user shared a tweet about their search for ‘’Yung girls ONLY, NO Boys,’’ on the platform, after which there was an ad for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.
Other tweets next to which brand ads were shown included keywords related to “rape” and “teens”.
Per Reuters’s report, the cybersecurity group discovered that there were more than 500 accounts that posted or requested child sexual abuse content over the span of 20 days this month. However, Twitter deleted only 30% of these accounts and the remaining 70% were still accessible while the study was being conducted, the group claims.
Speaking to Reuters, Twitter spokesperson Celeste Carswell said that the social media company ‘’has zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation’’ and that they’re dedicating extra resources to ensure child safety, including recruiting for new positions to establish policies and implement them.
She went on to say that Twitter teamed up with its ad partners and customers to investigate and prevent the incident from occurring again.
Twitter, just like the other social media companies, doesn’t allow child sexual exploitation material. However, it generally allows adult content to be shared on the platform. According to an internal document viewed by Reuters, adult content accounts for 13% of all content on the social media platform.
Reuters reported that it sent a sample of 20 accounts to Twitter on Thursday last week, the company banned nearly additional 300 accounts, however, more than 100 others remained available on the platform the next day.
On Monday, it sent the full list of all the 500 accounts included in Ghost Data’s study, and Twitter reviewed and permanently banned them all for breaking its rules, the company’s spokesperson said on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the company sent an email to its advertisers before Reuters shared the report, saying they “discovered that ads were running within Profiles that were involved with publicly selling or soliciting child sexual abuse material.”
According to transparency reports available on Twitter’s website, the company banned over 1 million accounts in 2021 for child sexual exploitation.