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Dubious Crypto Ads Plague X Despite Official Policy and Elon Musk’s Advertiser Crisis

Last Updated December 4, 2023 6:11 PM
Josh Adams
Last Updated December 4, 2023 6:11 PM
Key Takeaways
  • Analysis shown to CCN appears to confirm a worsening picture for X, formerly Twitter.
  • X is now full of crypto scam ads, with many linking to dubious websites.
  • Elon Musk has struggled to attract big-name advertisers since his takeover last year.

According to an analysis of sponsored posts on X, Elon Musk looks to be relying more and more on dubious crypto advertisements for revenue, as mainstream advertisers continue to abandon the website.

Musk has also claimed to have cracked down on bots, with programmatic accounts being one of the key reasons the South Africa-born billionaire was reluctant to buy the platform in the first place.

Numerous Crypto Scam Ads On X

CCN has been given a list of promoted X posts that appear to be scams, despite apparently needing approval from X to be published on their site. Most come from blue badge premium accounts—part of X’s replacement for “verified” accounts, whilst many appear to conflict with X’s advertising policy. 

The list includes over 70 advertisements, all posted within the last month, that claim to offer free airdrops of multiple crypto assets, including SOL, ACX, USDC, MiniPepe, Meta Ducks and many others. These posts must also clearly identify themselves  as promotional posts for financial products and services, which none do. Regardless, these posts have remained public.

Crypto scam ads asking for wallet details.
Many of the advertisements pointed to URLs asking to connect your wallet.

None of the accounts posting these advertisements are from the original issuers of these crypto assets. Most of the advertisements appear to be generated with AI, with many linking to sites that are no longer accessible. Many are also relatively young accounts, only created in 2022 or later, and have very low follower counts. Several of the posts underneath appear to be from supportive sock-puppet accounts.

A recurring theme is posts that link to URLs that attempt to mimic well-known projects or communities. One example that is still up at the time of writing links to an address (solancommunity.xyz) that claims to multiply the amount of SOL in your wallet. 

CCN has seen evidence that many of these posts have been reported, but with little action taken.

One scam crypto ad on X.
One linked-to website claims to be able to multiply your SOL tokens.

X Advertising Rules

X claims to enforce a rigorous global advertising policy  when it comes to cryptocurrency products and services, according to its website. It includes an official policy of pre-approval for financial/crypto products before the promoted post is certified 

They include securities, currency exchange; DeFi services; trading and related services; crypto debit and credit cards; crypto wallets; non-fungible tokens (NFTs) “and related products.” The policy outright prohibits advertisements for initial coin offerings (ICOs), initial exchange offerings (IEOs), initial decentralized exchange offerings (IDExOs), cryptocurrency mining, binary options, and bail bonds.

Crypto scam ads with dubious links.
Multiple linked URLs were flagged as risky by anti-virus software.

The policy complicates further when examining rules by country. Some nations like Germany, Brazil, and the United States permit crypto promotions more freely, while others like Singapore, Indonesia, and Hong Kong impose additional restrictions. Advertisers must navigate individual country regulations regarding cryptocurrency advertising on X’s platform.

X’s policy documentation warns advertisers that they remain liable for adhering to all applicable laws and regulations concerning their promotions.

However, the number of dubious crypto advertisements on X paints the picture of a website that is becoming increasingly unsafe for its users. It also shows how X is continuing to profit off of the scamming of its user base.

Musk’s Recent Tirade At Advertisers

The lack of due diligence on promoted posts (and content in general) may be down to a lack of other traditional advertisers, with X currently struggling to attract big names following Elon Musk’s takeover in October 2022. More recently, multiple mainstream advertisers have committed to staying away after Musk appeared to endorse an anti-semitic post on the site.

Musk has since apologized for this “dumbest” ever social media post.

The Tesla founder launched into an expletive-laden rant  at advertisers last week as pressure mounted for Musk to revive a once lucrative revenue stream. “If somebody has been trying to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go fuck yourself,” Musk said at the New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday.

CCN has approached X with our findings. At the time of writing, we have received no response.

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