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Twitter criticised for selling space in your Following list to advertisers

Twitter has reportedly begun selling advertising space in its users’ Following lists, without first asking permission of the account holder.

A number of high-profile Twitter users have criticised the move as misleading, as it appears as though users are endorsing certain brands.

Read more: Twitter co-founder Evan Williams snipes at Facebook and Instagram

Star Trek actor William Shatner tweeted Jack Dorset, Twitter’s co-founder, to voice his concerns after he noticed Mastercard had appeared in his Following list, even though he had not followed the company himself.

“Do you understand that by implying that I follow these companies that it appears to be an endorsement?” he wrote.

Mr Shatner also revealed he was not the only one to be targeted by the new ad campaign, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson also having Mastercard forced into his follower list.

Twitter has previously promoted accounts across Timelines, Who to Follow suggestions and search results, but this is the first time that this form of advertising has been incorporated into users’ Following lists.

It has already caused brands to appear in the Following list of rival companies, with Mastercard appearing on Visa’s account page.

Following the complaints, Twitter has taken down the advertisements from the specified accounts, but it is not yet clear if the micro-blogging site will continue to implement the strategy generally. In the site’s support page for marketers, Twitter makes no mention of advertising in Following lists, only across other areas of the social network.

Read more: Twitter hit by five-hour outage

Although promoted brands are highlighted as such, a quick scroll through a user’s Following list would make this difficult to spot, meaning the adverts are at least a little disingebanuous.

Barclay Ballard
Barclay Ballard

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.