Linda Yaccarino promised businesses their brands would be safe on X—the social media site formerly known as Twitter.
For the companies who saw their posts being promoted on a pro-Nazi profile this week, that pledge is ringing utterly hollow.
This week Media Matters, a not-for-profit research and insight site, published a report appearing to show posts from major global brands being unknowingly promoted on a pro-Nazi profile.
Since then numerous companies have withdrawn their advertising from the platform—with others adding their posts had been promoted without ever paying for the service.
It comes less than a week after Yaccarino, who took over from Elon Musk as CEO of X in May, promised companies their brands would be safe on the platform—even announcing an advertising council would be reinstated to support relations between the platform and its advertisers.
But Yaccarino, a former exec for NBCUniversal, can expect a frosty reception at the first meeting.
Multi-billion dollar conglomerate Gilead Sciences, for example, has withdrawn its advertising on the Musk-owned platform after its post announcing the launch of a new location—which will help battle life-threatening illnesses—was apparently promoted without Gilead’s knowledge on a hate speech account.
A spokesperson for the business told Fortune: “Gilead does not support the promotion of hate speech of any kind.”
The spokesperson added that as soon as Gilead was made aware of the situation it informed X. In the meantime, the company has “temporarily paused paid advertising while [it] looks into this further.”
X did not respond when approached by Fortune for comment.
The pro-Nazi account has now been suspended.
What safety measures?
Companies that even paid for Yaccarino’s so-called brand safety measures reportedly saw their posts appear alongside the disturbing anti-Semitic content.
According to CNN, posts from NCTA-The Internet and Television Association also appeared on the account and had gathered thousands of views, prompting the association to similarly suspend its advertising as well as “heavily limiting NCTA’s organic presence on the platform.”
NCTA spokesperson Brian Dietz told Fortune the organization had paid for precautions such as exclusionary keywords and restricted ad placement, adding: “We take the responsible placement of NCTA ads very seriously and are concerned that our post about the future of broadband technology appeared next to this highly disturbing content.”
Such safety features were lauded by Yaccarino only last week.
Speaking to CNBC, Yaccarino claimed X had a raft of brand safety and content moderation tools “that have never existed before at this company,” as well as confirming a new “de-amplification” policy.
“If you’re going to post something that is lawful but it’s awful you get labeled,” Yaccarino said. “You get de-amplified, which means it cannot be shared, and it is certainly demonetized.”
According to screenshots obtained by Media Matters, the option to like and retweet the posts from the pro-Nazi account were still available to users.
Fortune was among the brands that unknowingly had its advertising content promoted on the New American Union account. Fortune has contacted X to explain how it appeared linked to this account, which has since been taken down, and has suspended advertising on X.
Some companies also saw their posts promoted on the fascist account despite having not paid X for years.
Posts from the University of Maryland’s football team also appeared on the profile—which tweeted pro-Hitler propaganda—according to CNN.
However, Jason Yellin, University of Maryland’s associate athletic director, told CNN the team hadn’t paid any money to X—or as it was then, Twitter—since 2021. As a result, the promotion service has seemingly been carried out without the sports team’s knowledge—not only of where the content was being placed but that their posts were even being promoted at all.
‘Companies will go to battle’
For businesses not knowing where, why or when their content may appear beside hate speech is an unacceptable risk, according to experts.
Sally Tarbit, director of campaigns and content at London-based brand strategists The Team, said it was “absolutely shocking” that businesses’ content was appearing unauthorized alongside hate speech.
“If trust is lost it’s like a house of cards—and currently X lacks trust from both its audiences and its B2B partners,” Tarbit said.
She added the platform is proving it “doesn’t care about the integrity of brands” by offering safety measures that are not robust, adding companies will seek “more and more distance” from the platform if issues continue.
X promoting content without the consent of businesses is an example of one brand “taking control” of another, Tarbit continued, adding there may be a tipping point where advertisers leave en masse or even launch lawsuits against the platform.
But she had some good news. While companies will have to stay on certain social media platforms to engage with their customers, audiences will be able to discern if a brand is being promoted out of context.
“Audiences are savvy. They’ll realize something like this isn’t a brand’s choice,” she added.