X, misinformation accounts profit from misleading posts about Israel-Hamas war – Report


A study by NewGuard has revealed that programmatic advertisements for dozens of major brands, governments, educational institutions and non-profits are being displayed in X feeds directly below viral posts advancing false or misleading claims about the Israel-Hamas war.

The report covers the period from Nov. 13 to Nov. 22, 2023, and was conducted using 30 viral tweets which have collectively reached 92 million viewers and were posted by ten identified super-spreaders of misinformation on the platform.

It highlighted a troubling alliance between major advertisers, governments, nonprofits, and misinformation super-spreaders on X (formerly Twitter), noting the urgent need for increased transparency, accountability, and ethical considerations in the digital advertising ecosystem.

According to the report, these tweets propagated significant falsehoods, including the assertion that the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack against Israel was a “false flag” and that CNN staged footage of an October 2023 rocket attack on a news crew in Israel.

Disturbingly, NewsGuard found that ads from major brands like Pizza Hut, Airbnb, Microsoft, Paramount, and Oracle appeared on posts both with and without fact-check Community Notes, indicating that some of these advertisers may have unknowingly supported misinformation.

In total, 200 ads from 86 major brands, nonprofits, educational institutions, and governments were identified in the feeds below 24 of the 30 misleading tweets. Notably, this discovery follows the withdrawal of ads by Apple, Disney, and IBM from X after owner Elon Musk endorsed an antisemitic post on the platform. 

In response to the report, Musk vaguely stated that X Corp would be donating revenue associated with the war in Gaza to hospitals in Israel and the Red Cross/Crescent in Gaza, without providing clarity on the extent or nature of this commitment.

Part of the report reads, “On Oct. 29, 2023, X owner Elon Musk said that commentators whose posts had been flagged by Community Notes would not be eligible to make money from ad dollars on that particular post.

Nonetheless, NewsGuard found ads for 70 unique major organizations on 14 of the 15 tweets advancing war-related misinformation that did not feature a Community Note fact-check. This means that some of X’s worst purveyors of war-related misinformation would likely have been entitled to ad dollars from major organizations.

“For example, NewsGuard found 22 ads for major organizations on three tweets posted by Jackson Hinkle advancing false claims about the war that did not feature a Community Note. Hinkle is a commentator who describes himself as an “American Conservative Marxist-Leninist” and has spread dozens of false and misleading claims about the war, NewsGuard stated. 

“Ads for Oracle, Pizza Hut, and Anker, among others, were shown to NewsGuard analysts below a tweet posted by Hinkle on Oct. 12, 2023, that advanced the false claim that Daily Wire podcast host Ben Shapiro used artificial intelligence to generate an image of a child killed by Hamas. Hinkle’s tweet received 22 million views as of November 20. Again, it is in the nature of programmatic advertising that brands are unaware of where their ads are appearing and whom their ads are supporting.”

The analysis also exposes the indirect funding of the misinformation machine by governments and nonprofits. Of the 200 ads identified, 26 were from government-affiliated organizations, including the FBI. 

Nonprofit organizations and educational institutions, such as the Clean Air Action Fund and the University of Baltimore, were found advertising on tweets spreading misinformation about the war. 

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Nurudeen Akewushola is a fact-checker with FactCheckHub. He has authored several fact checks which have contributed to the fight against information disorder. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 via Twitter.


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