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Twitter Rolls Out New Political Ad Policies

by Countable | 10.25.17

What’s the story?

A bipartisan group of senators have introduced legislation, the Honest Ads Act, aimed at regulating internet and digital political advertisements similarly to television, radio, cable, and satellite ads. Lawyers from Twitter, Google and Facebook are expected to testify in front of Congress next week about Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election via their platforms.

In advance of that testimony, CNBC reports that Twitter is rolling out a new political ads policy to fall in line with the proposed legislation.

Why does it matter?

The Honest Ads Act would require several measures to create greater transparency in online political advertising:

  • Require digital platforms to maintain a public file of all political ads it sells beyond certain thresholds.

  • The file would include a digital copy of the ad, a description of the audience it targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, its cost, and the purchaser’s contract information.

  • Require online platforms to make reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities aren’t buying political ads to influence American voters.

The new Twitter policy is very similar, and will apply to all ads "used to promote a specific candidate for elected office or affiliated party posted within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election. Electioneering ads can also include any ad clearly promoting a political candidate at any time."

All relevant ads will be:

  • Clearly labeled as a political ad on every tweet, with information of who the sponsor is.

  • Included in a new ‘transparency center’, showing all political ads currently on the platform with who funded each campaign, how much they spent on this specific campaign, and how much they spent on the platform in total. There will be information on the criteria used to place the ad, such as age, gender and geography.

Twitter will also limit which criteria can be used to target people and will introduce what they are calling a "stronger" penalty on those who do not abide by the new rules, though they have provided no details about the nature of the new standards or penalties.

The new changes will initially only be enforced in the United States, but will roll out globally at a currently unspecified date in the future.

What do you think?

Is Twitter taking a positive and proactive step in addressing possible political manipulation of voters, whether by foreign or domestic groups, on their platform? Or are they succumbing to pressure, which is simply a first step towards online censorship of speech?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Pixabay / Creative Commons)

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