X, the company formerly known as Twitter, may not be labeling its ads properly, putting it at risk of — once again — running afoul of the FTC. There have been numerous reports over the last several days of ads appearing in users’ timelines without being labeled as such, TechCrunch, which was first to report on the stealth ads.
According to their reporting, as well as reports from industry groups, users have identified numerous ads that leave off the typical “Ad” label that identifies the post as paid advertising rather than a native post. It’s apparent that the posts are, in fact, ads when clicking into the “...” menu in the tweet, which indicates the tweet is a paid promotion.
While the unlabeled ads have irked users, who may mistakenly believe the platform is showing posts from accounts they don’t follow in their following timeline, the issue also risks stirring up more regulatory trouble with the FTC. Nandini Jammi, co-founder of watchdog group Check My Ads, has been on her Twitter account over the past couple days. The nonprofit group is tracking the issue and encouraging X users any examples they find.
We've gotten some great examples from you all of Twitter ads that aren't marked as ads. Keep those screenshots coming to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with how you're using Twitter (iOS/Android app or web). pic.twitter.com/wIXsiLzCj0
— Check My Ads (@CheckMyAdsHQ) September 8, 2023
It’s unclear if the unlabeled ads are the result of a bug or an intentional change by the company. X, which no longer has a functioning communications department, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
But it’s no secret the company’s advertising business has collapsed over the last year since Elon Musk took over the company. Musk recently said ad revenue is down, a drop he has blamed on activists. The company also recently top executives overseeing brand safety, an issue advertisers have cited as a major concern and reason for pulling back from the platform.