As former NBCUniversal advertising executive Linda Yaccarino takes over as Twitter’s CEO amid advertisers fleeing from the platforms, ads from major companies are appearing on the platform next to tweets from previously banned accounts, including right-wing extremists, COVID-19 misinformers, anti-vaccine figures, and election deniers.
Yaccarino enters the role as advertisers have fled Musk’s chaotic leadership at Twitter and his troubling behavior on the platform. Musk has repeatedly pushed anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, fringe misinformation, and right-wing conspiracy theories on Twitter — and he will likely continue to do so even with Yaccarino as CEO. Yaccarino supported Musk throughout his chaotic tenure as CEO, providing strategic advice on how to woo blue chip advertising partners, giving him a platform with advertisers, and maintaining NBCUniversal’s relationship with Twitter while other companies fled. The same day that Yaccarino officially started, Musk confirmed Twitter’s revenue has been cut in half since he took ownership of the company.
The platform has also conceded that her leadership “will not result in a different content-moderation strategy for Twitter, a company that will still be owned by Musk and led by a person chosen by Musk” — suggesting the platform will remain a cesspool of extremist rhetoric and misinformation and be toxic for advertisers even under a new CEO.
According to advertising data from Sensor Tower, Twitter’s top advertisers in May were The Wall Street Journal ($4.3 million), Mondelez International ($4.1 million), HBO ($2.5 million), and FinanceBuzz.io ($2.0 million). Some other notable advertisers include Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Frontier Communications, Netflix, and Dropbox.
Media Matters has identified multiple ads from these advertisers and other major companies appearing on Twitter next to previously banned accounts — including right-wing extremists, COVID-19 misinformers, anti-vaccine figures, and election deniers — that Musk unilaterally reinstated since taking over the platform. Since being reinstated, many of these accounts have continued posting anti-LGBTQ hate, conspiracy theories, vaccine and election misinformation, and other harmful content on Twitter, making the platform increasingly toxic for advertisers.
Ads from major companies appearing next to content from these harmful accounts include:
- Ads for Mondelez International’s Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers appeared next to content from misogynist influencer Andrew Tate, who was banned from Twitter in 2017 after blaming rape victims for putting themselves in a position to be assaulted and is currently under house arrest in Romania, where he is being investigated “for crimes of suspected human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women.”
- Ads for Mondelez International’s Ritz crackers and Chips Ahoy appeared next to content from Erin Elizabeth, an anti-vaccine figure and member of the “Disinformation Dozen” leading COVID-19 misinformers online who was seemingly banned when at least one of her accounts violated the platform’s rules against hateful conduct.
- The Wall Street Journal’s ad appeared next to content from The Babylon Bee, the right-wing satire site that Musk quickly reinstated despite being banned for violating the platform’s rules against hateful content after repeatedly misgendering U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine. Since being reinstated, the account has perpetuated the anti-LGBTQ “groomer” slur, earning nearly 1,600 retweets on its “groomer”-related posts in just a month.
- Frontier Communications’ ad appeared next to content from James O’Keefe, the recently ousted Project Veritas founder known for targeting supposedly liberal organizations with deceptively edited smear videos, who was banned from Twitter in April 2021 for violating “platform manipulation and spam” policies. Prior to being forced out from Project Veritas, O’Keefe assisted in amplifying campaigns to push misinformation about COVID-19, attack educators over LGBTQ-inclusive schooling, cater to QAnon conspiracy theorists, and undermine confidence in the 2020 presidential election, along with countless other blunders and harmful crusades. He has continued these antics on Twitter since leaving Project Veritas; in a recent tweet, O’Keefe asked his followers “who wants to wear a camera to find out what they could possibly be showing babies? For Pride?”
- Ads for The Wall Street Journal and Bing appeared next to content from election denier Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock who is connected to the QAnon movement and was suspended days after the January 6 insurrection for his role in spreading lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
- Netflix’s ad appeared next to content from right-wing personality Alex Lorusso (known as ALX), who was permanently suspended from Twitter in 2020 for violating the platform’s “manipulation and spam policy, specifically creating accounts to replace or mimic a suspended account.” Since being reinstated, Lorusso has repeatedly amplified anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
Correction (6/9/23): This piece has been updated to reflect that Pathmatics, a firm that tracks digital spending, has been acquired by Sensor Tower.