The New Jersey Lottery has publicly announced the suspension of all advertising on Twitter after the I-Team revealed an advertisement for Powerball was placed in a Twitter feed featuring antisemitic cartoons.
The memes, depicting Jewish people with exaggerated, stereotyped facial features, appeared in September and October on a Twitter feed that glorifies a pro-Russia paramilitary group. In one cartoon, Jewish people were depicted as rats and roaches running across Europe. In another, a stereotyped Jewish man was pictured orchestrating warfare from behind a computer screen. The same feed featured an ad promoting last week’s $1.2 billion Powerball jackpot.
After the I-Team notified the NJ Lottery about its promotional content appearing alongside hate speech, the agency confirmed it had suspended its business relationship with Twitter just hours before.
“The Lottery condemns antisemitism, racial, ethnic and religious hate of any kind,” wrote Missy Gillespie, a spokeswoman for the NJ Lottery. “This morning, prior to receiving your email, the Lottery had paused all paid Twitter advertising because of concern regarding regard content moderation changes.”
Since purchasing Twitter last monthElon Musk has faced steady criticism of his approach to hate speech and offensive content. Last week the company announced layoffs of nearly half the social media platform’s workforce.
The Coalition for a Safer Web, a nonprofit watchdog that monitors hate speech on social media, was first to identify the NJ Lottery advertisement appearing alongside antisemitic content. The group also identified an ad promoting the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) in the same feed.
“This is a perfect illustration of a problem in the past that we’ve identified to Twitter,” said Marc Ginsberg, President of the Coalition for a Safer Web. “This very type of antisemitic content would be criminalized in Europe.”
Virginia Pellerin, an NJEDA spokesperson, said the agency was also pausing business with Twitter in light of the antisemitic cartoons.
“The NJEDA opposes all forms of antisemitism, antisemitic violence and all other forms of bigotry and discrimination. We have instructed Twitter to suspend our advertising while we investigate how this inappropriate placement occurred. Given recently announced content moderation changes at Twitter, we, like many organizations are evaluating our options for engaging with the platform going forward,” Pellerin said.
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Representatives for Twitter didn’t immediately respond to the I-Team’s request for comment, but they have argued publicly that hateful offensive content is being removed at much the same rate now — as it was when Twitter was a publicly traded company with far more employees .
On Friday, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s Head of Safety & Integrity, pushed back on claims that the company has restricted access to internal tools impacting content moderation, asserting those tools were only restricted for some users for security reasons.
“Most of the 2,000+ content moderators working on front-line review were not impacted, and access will be fully restored in the coming days,” wrote Roth. “More than 80% of our incoming content moderation volume was completely unaffected by this access change. The daily volume of moderation actions we took stayed steady through this period.”
Just a few hours after the I-Team sent messages to Twitter about the presence of antisemitic cartoons, the account promoting the pro-Russian paramilitary group was listed as suspended.
But Eric Feinberg, Vice President of Content Moderation for the Coalition for a Safer Web, said the fact that antisemitic content existed for weeks without Twitter knowing, proves the platform’s artificial intelligence has a blind spot when it comes to hate speech – especially on foreign language feeds.
“Twitter’s AI is not astute enough,” Feinberg said. “They don’t have context or knowledge to teach their AI about what happens in foreign languages or foreign events such as the war in Ukraine.”