Brand safety: the other Internet moderation?

What if brand safety was the best way to moderate the Internet? This is perhaps illustrated by the relationship that has grown strained between advertisers and Twitter since its takeover by Elon Musk.

Advertisers’ concern about not having their brand associated with offensive content is not new, but it is indeed at the heart of the tensions between Twitter and the latter since Elon Musk conducted a full amnesty of accounts banned from the network. Accounts deleted for violating Twitter’s rules of conduct. Accounts that range from support for the Islamic State to white supremacism, including all forms of conspiracy or misinformation.

According to observers, more than 62,000 accounts are being restored. A questioning which is coupled with a drastic reduction in the workforce, which particularly affected the network moderation teams or the interlocutors of the representatives of the public authorities.

Advertisers between wait-and-see and skepticism in the face of Twitter’s backtracking

A throwback from the social network which, while being based on the very principle of freedom of expression, has in fact been most regularly pointed out by the authorities or regulators, for its supposed laxity in terms of moderation of content and to which one could ironically attribute the -undesired paternity – regulatory texts such as the DSA.

But if some political representatives were publicly offended by this new situation on the network, it was from the advertisers that the most direct backlash came…

Several groups of agencies, such as IPG Mediabrands or Omnicom Media Group, have thus advised brands to avoid the platform or, like Group M, have assessed advertising on Twitter as being “high risk”. Media Matters reported that 50 of the top 100 advertisers in the United States have suspended all advertising on Twitter. These advertisers include VW, General Motors, Heineken, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Mars and Ford, but also Apple, one of the platform’s main advertiser budgets. A suspension that provoked the ire of the new owner and leader of the social network who opposed the principle of freedom of expression and defended a strategy of de-amplification rather than deletion of content.

An attitude consistent with responsible advertising objectives

It is, however, surprising to say the least that a platform which derives most of its revenue from advertising has, in fact, treated with little regard a concern that has become so central to advertisers who are aware that their social reputation is a major issue. A crucial issue at a time when any practice of “washing” is systematically the subject of harsh criticism.

Especially since beyond the presence of banners near offensive content, some brands have already been confronted with fake institutional accounts distilling misinformation about their products… One practice among others targeting intangible heritage brands which had also led the platforms to develop fingerprinting techniques. Finally, everyone knows today that brand safety is a concern at the heart of the more global dynamic of responsible advertising, alongside other commitments such as reducing the carbon footprint of digital advertising. For advertisers, the time is no longer for debates on the “why” but on the “how”!

Timely decision or lasting awareness?

It is therefore legitimate to wonder whether we are not facing a textbook case: that of another form of moderation, which without replacing the work of dedicated teams (2,200 people at Twitter before the mass departures), nor to the action of algorithms or “trusted flaggers”, sets red lines. Even if it means suspending, as the programmatic, a campaign instantly. A timely decision or a sign of lasting awareness? The company, a social actor in its own right, is here preparing to join a debate which, beyond the obvious red lines, knows borders that are often more subtle to draw, between freedom of expression and respect for others. But it is undoubtedly one of the necessary counterparts to the advent of true responsible advertising.

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Brand safety: the other Internet moderation?

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