X Says It Lost Advertisers After ‘Anti-Misinformation’ Firm Peddled Misinformation

Dozens of major brands said they could not advertise on X because of a poor rating from a third-party “brand safety” firm that now admits it made a mistake, the social media platform says.

DoubleVerify, a firm that rates digital platforms such as X based on how they handle questionable content like racism or “misinformation,” acknowledged it made a mistake with its rating of billionaire Elon Musk’s social media platform.

“DoubleVerify recently discovered a graphical error in the display of X’s Brand Safety Rate in DV’s Pinnacle dashboard that resulted in displaying an incorrect, lower rate,” CEO Mark Zegorski said. “This display error occurred over four and a half months.”

“Based on DoubleVerify’s metrics, X’s Brand Safety Rate across all campaigns we measured exceeded 99.99%,” he wrote. “We take full responsibility” and “apologize for any conclusion.”

Joe Benarroch, X’s head of business operations, told The Daily Wire that the misrepresentation “has caused incalculable damage to our business.” 

He says companies including Campbell’s and ConAgra were hesitant to advertise on X after the DoubleVerify dashboard displayed a poor rating for a Molson Coors X campaign. The three companies all use the same advertising firm, the Spark Foundry subsidiary of the Publicis Groupe, which says it wants to “build [a] more equitable ad ecosystem.” 

Campbell’s spokesman James F. Regan denied that story, saying the brands have not advertised on X since 2020 and “the decision was tied to consumer behavior and performance.” ConAgra and Molson Coors did not return requests for comment.

Benarroch said that there were “dozens” of companies “who used [DoubleVerify] to justify stopping advertising.” He said that advertisers did business with X freely when it was known as Twitter and run by a politically liberal CEO, but cited “brand safety” to stop advertising since the acquisition by Elon Musk, even though “prior to acquisition, there was little to no brand safety capabilities,” and “90% of all brand safety capabilities and partnerships were put in place post-acquisition.”

DoubleVerify is a publicly traded company that pulls in massive sums, reporting half a billion dollars in revenue in 2023. The demand for its services was partly created by the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), which says that no company should advertise on news sources that promote “misinformation.” 

To determine which outlets are unacceptable, advertisers defer to third-party firms. Critics say those firms act as partisan activist groups that gin up business with the implied threat that companies could face boycotts from the Left if they advertise on channels such as Fox News. The firms have rated mainstream, center-right news outlets like Reason Magazine and the New York Post as unsuitable to advertise on, and advocates have spoken of the ratings systems as a way to bankrupt disfavored news organizations.

In 2020, DoubleVerify said it was “the first verification company to align product functionality with the Brand Safety Floor and Brand Suitability Framework advanced by the 4A’s Advertising Protection Bureau (APB) and World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM). “

DoubleVerify openly displays its political sensibilities. The company says it is focused on “Breaking the Bias in Ad Tech” and “Bringing Pronouns to the Workplace,” and hosted a “Social Justice Hackathon.”

DoubleVerify did not immediately return a request for comment on how its error affected only X, and why users should trust a “misinformation” rating system that pushed misinformation. 

The House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether GARM violated anti-trust laws, and said it has seen evidence that, though the group purported to be focused on “safety” and “misinformation,” it actually targeted news outlets based on their politics, including The Daily Wire, Fox News, and Breitbart. 

It has demanded evidence from companies that compose the GARM “steering committee,”  Unilever, Procter & Gamble, GroupM, Diageo, and Mars. 

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