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​Advertisers to Twitter: Keep my ads off your porn

Newsflash: There's a lot of pornography on the Internet. There are also a lot of ads. And sometimes, those two don't mix.

Nielsen, the company known for tracking television ratings, pulled an advertising campaign from Twitter recently because its ads were showing up alongside pornographic content, according to Ad Week. The paid promoted tweet -- which said, ironically, "Am I getting the most value from my media buy?" -- was showing up on Twitter profile pages such as "homemade porn."

And Nielsen wasn't alone. NBC Universal, Duane Reade and Gatorade also found their promoted tweets appearing on obviously adult feeds.

By some estimates, one in every 1,000 tweets is pornographic and there are 10 million Twitter pages dedicated to pornography.

The story of advertisers versus porn goes all the way back to the early days of paid ads on the Internet. In fact, Ethan Zuckerberg, of the MIT Media Lab, says that it was exactly this conflict that led him decades ago to create the first pop-up ad.

Tasked with having to figure out how to prevent a Ford ad from showing up next to a graphic sexual reference, he said in an online documentary about Internet privacy, he "added a certain amount of distance" by forcing the ad to open in a new window.

An unnamed Twitter executive told Ad Week that companies' advertising showing up alongside unsavory text and images "is a huge issue facing the entire industry on these platforms, and we, along with everyone, are working hard to try to fix it."

Twitter, however, faces a particularly steep uphill battle, as it imposes far fewer limits on its users than other social networks, such as Facebook, which holds users to standards of conduct and makes them use their real names, and Instagram, which has caught flack for being overly restrictive about nudity in photos.

Twitter's laxer stance has gotten it in hot water before. It's a notorious hotbed for harassment. CEO Dick Costolo has even said that as a company, "we suck at dealing with abuse...and we've sucked at it for years."

As CNET's Bridget Carey pointed out, Twitter will have to do some serious rejiggering to prevent more of these embarrassing and revenue-losing gaffes, since the issue is "a problem with targeted advertising in general," which is driven by location, who you follow and your browsing history, not by specific content.

"Advertisers need to be on Twitter," she said. "And they want Twitter to figure it out and keep it clean."

  • Amanda Schupak

    Amanda Schupak is the science and technology editor at CBSNews.com