X sneaks in unlabeled ads into people’s feeds

X sneaks in unlabeled ads into people’s feeds

Ads on X platform

Imagine scrolling through your social media timeline, expecting to see posts from the accounts you follow, only to be bombarded with ads. Now imagine these ads blended seamlessly with the regular posts, leaving you unsure whether you’re looking at a paid promotion or an authentic update from someone you follow. This is the predicament users are facing on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Reports have been pouring in over the last few days of ads appearing in users’ timelines without being properly labeled as such. According to ENBLE, which was the first to report on these stealth ads, users have spotted numerous sponsored posts that lack the typical “Ad” label, which clearly identifies them as paid advertising. It’s only when you click into the “…” menu in a tweet that it becomes apparent that the post is a paid promotion.

Not only is this misleading for users who may mistake the ads for regular content, but it also puts X at risk of facing regulatory scrutiny, particularly from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Nonprofit watchdog group Check My Ads, led by co-founder Nandini Jammi, has been actively sharing examples of these unlabeled ads on Twitter and urging users to report any instances they come across.

The big question is whether these unlabeled ads are the result of a bug or an intentional change by X. Unfortunately, we may never know, as X, now lacking a functioning communications department, has not responded to inquiries seeking clarification on the matter.

What we do know is that X’s advertising business has taken a hit in the past year, ever since Elon Musk took over the company. Musk recently revealed that ad revenue has plummeted by a staggering 60 percent, a decline he attributes to the negative influence of activists. Additionally, X has also lost two key executives tasked with ensuring brand safety, a concern that advertisers have cited as a significant factor in their decision to scale back their presence on the platform.

In an era where transparency and clear labeling are paramount, it’s important for platforms like X to ensure that ads are distinctly marked for users. While native advertising has its place, misleading users by blurring the lines between sponsored content and organic posts can erode trust and push regulators to intervene. X must address this issue promptly to regain advertisers’ confidence and provide a more authentic experience for its users.