If you’re scrolling through your feed on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, and come across a post from an account you don’t follow, you might just see an unlabeled ad.
Several users on The paid ads shown to users appear as organic posts (also known as tweets) and appear directly in the user’s feed like unpaid content.
Users have reported seeing these unlabeled ads in both the For You feed, which contains algorithmically recommended content, and the Following tab, which only shows content posted and reposted by accounts that a user follows. Paid ads placed through X’s advertising platform will appear in both feeds regardless.
The tweet may have been deleted
It’s unclear whether X, under owner Elon Musk, has decided to remove these ad labels or if this is a temporary bug. It’s also unclear when exactly X stopped labeling these ads. Some users say they first noticed that ads were no longer being flagged a few weeks ago, but it appears that the lack of ad disclosure has increased over the last week.
Nandini Jammi, co-founder of the nonprofit Adtech Watchdog organization Check my adsspotlight the issue after an X user I have provided a screenshot an advertisement that was served to them without identification. Many users shared their own screenshots of unlabeled ads shortly afterwards.
“The lack of labeling misleads consumers and conflicts with FTC guidelines on deceptively formatted ads,” said Sarah Kay Wiley, director of policy and partnerships at Check My Ads, in a statement to Mashable. “Advertisers are struggling with what a brand should look like.” “As Twitter has become unsafe, this represents another potentially big risk for any brand advertising on Twitter.”
An example showing a blank ad on X with menu options indicating it is an advertisement.
Photo credit: X-Screenshot
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has made it clear several times over the years that paid advertising must be clearly marked as such to avoid misleading consumers into thinking they are viewing organic or editorial content. In 2013, for example, the FTC sent a warning to dozens of search engine providers that ads on these online platforms were not clearly disclosed. The FTC said companies should add text-based labels to every ad.
To protect consumers, the FTC guidelines were established updated In recent years, there have been demands that celebrities and influencers also clearly disclose when a company has paid for a sponsored social media post or video.
This is how you can tell if you are seeing an ad without a label on X
So if an ad isn’t marked as such, how can you tell that an account X is paying to have its ads displayed? Finally, X users can see posts from accounts they don’t follow when another user they follow reposts the content to their feed (also known as retweeting). The platform’s recommendation algorithm can also push organic posts into a user’s “For You” feed.
It’s actually pretty simple. If a user notices a post in their feed from an account they don’t follow, they can simply click or tap the three-dot icon in the top right corner of that post. This will open a drop-down menu. If the content was posted organically, the first opinion in the menu offers the user the option to follow the account.
The menu of a paid ad on X without a label.
However, if the post is an ad, this menu provides additional options. For example, if the post is actually a paid ad, the very first menu option will change to “Not interested in this ad,” followed by a sad face emoji. There are also additional menu items that only appear with ads on X, such as “Report Ad” and “Why this ad?”
Users noticed that ads were no longer featured after noticing that they were being provided with these menu options that only appear in paid ads on the platform.
The lack of disclosure of X-ads was also reported on the web version of the platform.
To be clear, these are not third-party ads like the celebrity and influencer sponsored posts mentioned earlier. The unlabeled ads are served directly through X’s advertising platform, meaning the company is paid directly by advertisers to run the ads on the social network. The ads are even marked internally with an X as advertising, which is why these additional menu items are displayed in these posts. However, X does not serve these paid advertisements with any public label or disclosure to inform consumers.
Ad disclosure on X was already confusing for users
The platform launched in July before some users noticed that the labels had been completely removed Experimenting with new ad releases. As Twitter, the company traditionally marked a paid ad with the note “Sponsored” at the bottom left of the tweet, prominently displayed next to regularly used interaction buttons such as “Reply” and “Retweet.” However, last month,
It’s important to note that for some, the platform appears to switch between “Sponsored” and “Ad” labels. Therefore, users should look for either label at the top and bottom of a post before claiming they were shown an ad without a label.
Another example of an unlabeled ad on X.
Photo credit: X-Screenshot
It’s also important to note that the platform treats some video ads differently. Twitter Amplify is an exclusive revenue share program offered to some of the platform’s brand partners that allows video pre-roll ads to run before videos are uploaded in organic posts. The disclosure label for these video ads appears as an overlay at the bottom of the video ad itself and does not appear in the post.
Mashable attempted to reach X but received the following automated response: “Busy now, please check back later.”