Ubisoft has confirmed that it has joined other major companies who have paused advertising on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, following a Media Matters report which claims that the platform has been running ads for companies including Apple, IBM, NBCUniversal, and Comcast owner Xfinity next to pro-Nazi content. X denies that regular users will see such ads next to extremist content, claiming that Media Matters intentionally manipulated a feed to produce that result.
The list of companies who have halted activity on X is long and potentially extremely damaging for a platform struggling with a decline in advertising revenues: IBM, Apple, Disney, Warner Bros, Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, Xfinity, Sony, and others have all opted to stop running ads, at least temporarily.
Ubisoft is the first major game publisher we’re aware of that’s made the move. A rep confirmed the decision, first reported by Axios, in a statement provided to PC Gamer, although no further details, including a reason for the pause, were shared. According to the Axios report, Ubisoft had been running ads for Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR on X.
X owner Elon Musk’s tenure at the head of the company has seen a rapid decline in both users and valuation, driven by a refusal to moderate content and Musk’s own increasingly overt embrace of antisemitism and baffling technical decisions. That’s previously led Blizzard, Microsoft, and Sony to end X integration in their games and consoles, but this is something different: A large-scale exodus of major advertisers, pushed away by the alleged appearance of their ads next to pro-Nazi content.
X CEO Linda Yaccarino pushed back on the Media Matters report, and called on users (and, I would imagine, advertisers) to “stand with X.”
“Not a single authentic user on X saw IBM’s, Comcast’s, or Oracle’s ads next to the content in Media Matters’ article,” Yaccarino tweeted. “Only 2 users saw Apple’s ad next to the content, at least one of which was Media Matters.”
X has since filed a lawsuit (via BBC) against Media Matters over the report, accusing it of “threatening X’s relationships with massive multinational advertisers and global publishers.” It also acknowledges that advertisements from major brands appeared alongside “fringe content,” but says it only happened because Media Matters manipulated the accounts it follows “to manufacture an inorganic user experience aimed at creating controversial content and big-name advertisers.”
“Media Matters set its account to follow only 30 users (far less than the average number of accounts followed by a typical active user, 219), severely limiting the amount and type of content featured on its feed,” the X lawsuit states. All of these users were either already known for posting controversial content or were accounts for X’s advertisers.
“An internal review by X revealed that Media Matters’ account started to alter its scrolling and refreshing activities in an attempt to manipulate inorganic combinations of advertisements and content. Media Matters’ excessive scrolling and refreshing generated between 13 and 15 times more advertisements per hour than would be seen by a typical user, essentially seeking to force a situation in which a brand ad post appeared adjacent to fringe content. Eventually, through intentionally evading X’s multiple safeguards by curating the content on its feed and then repeatedly attempting to create pairings of advertisements for major brands with controversial content, Media Matters finally achieved its goal.”