Twitter’s Latest Ad Problem: Users Flagging Them for Misinformation

Twitter designed the community notes feature for users to add context to possible misleading tweets. Now it’s a liability for advertisers.

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Elon Musk fired most of Twitter’s content moderators, reckoning users could police themselves with a feature called “community notes.” But the same tool is being used to take shots at advertisers, presenting Linda Yaccarino with her migraine du jour.

Originally designed for users to add context to tweets that they thought were misleading, the community notes feature has recently become a liability for advertisers both large and small. So even if Musk’s own unpredictable feed weren’t enough to spook advertisers, the fear that their ads might come with a big label saying “don’t trust this ad” attached might.

Items of Note

Letting Twitter users moderate misinformation is very much in keeping with Musk’s stated ambition of making Twitter a home for citizen journalism. The billionaire has expressed a distinct dissatisfaction with legacy media, and this week followed through on a promise to remove headlines from news articles published to Twitter, though he said this was for “aesthetic” reasons.

For brands, however, handing users this much power is a more daunting prospect. This reporter spotted an ad this week for an obscure product where a community note urged viewers to “exercise caution when purchasing from this store as it is part of an AI-generated network of stores selling drop shipped products.” It also warned the products might be more expensive than they should be, in shoddy condition, and may even not be shipped at all. But it’s not just obscure and dodgy products getting the community notes treatment:

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that Uber deleted an ad it had placed on Twitter after it got stuck with a community note that undermined its claims that Uber drivers could be their own bosses. The note in question said Uber drivers earn on average $11.77 an hour.
  • A spokesperson for PETA told the WSJ that the organization is likely to reduce its already small ad spend on Twitter because it’s run into problems with community notes, claiming they can be “hijacked.”

Breaking News: Musk isn’t the only social media mogul who’s grown disenchanted with legacy news content. Axios reported this week that data from traffic analysis company Similarweb suggested social media referrals to news stories from both Meta and Twitter are plummeting, putting extra hurt on their business models.