X is left with advertisers pushing dubious cryptocurrency and AI 'undressing' apps, users say after Musk's outburst

Elon Musk
Advertisers have fled X in recent months following a series of controversies surrounding its owner, Elon Musk.Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
  • Some X users are complaining the site is overrun with ads pushing crypto and AI "undressing" apps.

  • Social media experts say an advertiser exodus has left X reliant on less reputable buyers.

  • Elon Musk told off major advertisers in November after they cut spending over his comments.

Elon Musk's war on advertisers seems to be having some unintended consequences for X.

Some users have been complaining that the site is overrun with low-quality ads such as promotions for AI "undressing" apps and dubious crypto services, with social media and advertising experts telling Business Insider that the worsening quality of paid posts on X is a direct consequence of the exodus of large advertisers from the platform.

In recent weeks, users have been calling out the growing prominence of these ads, with some even adding community notes to suspect promotions in an attempt to warn others about the risk of losing their money.

X Crypto ad
An NFT ad on X with a community note.Business Insider

Other suspect advertisements have been spotted on the site, with users also complaining about a surge in ads on their timelines for "undressing" apps. Using artificial intelligence, such apps allow users to generate fake naked images of real people.

These ads violate X's terms of service, which prohibits the promotion of adult sexual content.

They are also spreading rapidly across the internet, according to data from the social-media analysis firm Graphika, which warned such tools could be used for sextortion and targeted harassment campaigns.

X didn't respond to a request for comment for this story.

'The large advertisers have effectively walked out'

The appearance of dubious ads on social-media sites is not unusual, with the likes of Meta having to apologize for crypto scam ads in the past.

Advertising and social media experts told BI, however, that the exodus of larger advertisers had most likely left X more reliant on smaller, less reputable ad buyers — to the detriment of users on the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Jeff MacDonald, the social strategy director at the ad agency Mekanism, told BI that the fact undressing ads were winning placement bids on X was "proof that the large advertisers are gone."

"It also shows the race to the bottom that the X platform has fallen into," he added.

That race may still have some way left to go, with 404 Media reporting last month that ads promoting "semen stealing" were showing up on the site.

Hamza Mudassir, a strategy consultant and lecturer at Cambridge University, noted that suspicious ads appear across all social-media platforms.

"However, I think the problem with X is that, because all of the large advertisers have effectively walked out, this is what you see in higher frequency, which basically produces a terrible time for genuine users on the platform," he told BI.

'X has made it abundantly clear that it has no desire to create a brand-safe environment'

Musk's own behavior on the platform he owns has prompted action by mainstream advertisers.

Apple, Disney, and several others said they would stop spending on the site in November after Musk endorsed an antisemitic post. He then infamously told such advertisers to "go fuck yourself," describing their actions as blackmail.

Since taking over the site, Musk has slashed X's content-moderation team and reinstated figures such as Alex Jones who was previously removed from the platform for abusive behavior, something that made advertisers distinctly uneasy even before the billionaire's recent controversies.

"Most of our clients had already started to devalue X as a platform for meaningful connections with their customers before Musk's behaviors," MacDonald said.

"The fact that X has made it abundantly clear that it has no desire to create a brand-safe environment has only solidified our recommendations to move to growing platforms with better opportunities for organic discovery," he added.

Now, the advertiser exodus has left CEO Linda Yaccarino scrambling to plug a growing black hole of revenue, with internal documents viewed by The New York Times suggesting the company was on track to lose as much as $75 million in ad revenue by the end of 2023.

The Financial Times reported last month that X was attempting to offset the loss of companies like IBM and Walmart by appealing to smaller businesses and aiming to bring in $100 million in political ads during the 2024 election year.

"We're seeing advertising costs drop as X becomes more desperate to attract advertisers, and so we're starting to see some of these lower-quality ads," a social-media expert, Matt Navarra, told BI.

"I think as we see big advertisers and big brands pull away, there will be some backfilling by low-quality ads, small businesses, and political advertisers," he said, "but I don't know if that will really make a dent on the gap in revenue."

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