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Twitter Scrambles for an Ad Fix as Nielsen's Promoted Tweets Show Up in Porn Feeds

TV company pulled its campaign

A Promoted Tweet appears on a profile page dedicated to porn.

Twitter has a porn problem, and it caused one brand to temporarily halt a campaign today. Nielsen, the television and digital data company, pulled the plug on its Promoted Tweets after they appeared near adult content on the site. 

Nielsen's promos showed up on Twitter profile pages called "Daily Dick Pictures" and "Homemade Porn." Ads are not supposed to appear on a profile page if X-rated content is posted there, and a bug was to blame, a source familiar with Twitter's technology said.

"As Twitter works to resolve this issue, we have temporarily suspended our campaign," a Nielsen spokesman told Adweek.

Nielsen was not alone, either. Marketers' promos from Duane Reade, NBCUniversal and Gatorade also showed up in feeds of pornographic photos and videos.

Brand safety is an issue across the digital advertising ecosystem, where it is difficult to police every website and social media post. Twitter rivals like YouTube and Facebook also have dealt with racy or offensive content that concerned advertisers.

"This is a huge issue facing the entire industry on these platforms, and we, along with everyone, are working hard to try to fix it," said one media executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity and whose company's ads have appeared near adult content. 

Other brands whose ads ran in similar contexts did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"We're aware that Promoted Tweets are being displayed on some profiles that contain inappropriate content," a Twitter spokesman said in a statement to Adweek. "We are committed to providing a safe environment for brands to build their business, and our product team is working to fix the issue." 

Twitter is in a particularly tough position—it has to monitor 300 million active accounts filled with user-generated content—and its troubles with not-safe-for-work material have been raised before.

The San Francisco tech company has been trying to clean up its site—not just accounts that share NSFW pictures, but also those that support terrorism or harass other users. It recently introduced a quality filter that removes abusive or offensive tweets from a user's timeline.

But just last week, Robert Peck, a SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst, wrote a report warning that Twitter ads were appearing near pornography and that brands would pull back on spending if the problem became more widely known. Peck estimated there could be as many as 10 million Twitter accounts dedicated to sharing pornography and that Twitter needs to do a better job of blocking them.

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