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Twitter pulls autoplay ads to avoid triggering epileptics

After tweeting complaints, an advocacy group pushed Twitter to stop auto playing ads (but hasn’t Facebook done this for years?).


twitter ads

Vine ads pulled after advocacy group calls them “massively dangerous”

Autoplay ads can feel invasive to anyone: you’re scrolling through your Facebook or Twitter feed and without permission, a sponsored video starts playing, distracting you from the headline you were interested in, or that adorable cat picture your friend posted. Recently though, Twitter got into some hot water for posting ads that were more than annoying, they were “massively dangerous” to users with photosensitive epilepsy.

The two original ads–six second clips of bright, flashing colors–were posted using Vine’s looping video platform, in order to promote Twitter’s #DiscoverMusic campaign. Unfortunately, flashing bright lights or patterns are commonly reported triggers for seizures.

65M people have epilepsy worldwide

With 65 million people diagnosed with epilepsy worldwide, the ads were seriously problematic. The charity Epilepsy Action pointed this out to Twitter, calling the company’s risk “irresponsible” and asking them to remove the ads immediately. Twitter responded to the complaints and after 18 hours, the ads were pulled on Friday morning.

Facebook has been at it for years…

Twitter’s autoplay feature, rolled out last month, represents a huge financial opportunity for the company: video ads command higher ad rates than traditional display ads. Facebook introduced auto-play videos in 2013 and they’re now generating about four billion video views per day up from one billion last year.

For now, the #Discovermusic campaign will need a different kind of video advertising as a way to draw artists to Twitter and promote musician’s new tracks. Epilepsy Action has offered to work with Twitter “to make future ads safe for people with photosensitive epilepsy.”

The great news–besides the dangerous videos being taken down–is that every user has the option of disabling autoplay ads in the settings menu (as they have all along). We can scroll on, uninterrupted, free to check out all of the cat links (or news headlines!) we want.


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Written By

Amy Orazio received her MFA in Creative Writing at Otis College of Art and Design, in Los Angeles. She lives in Portland now, where she is enjoying the cross section of finishing her poetry manuscript and writing for The American Genius.

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