Twitter introduces new guidelines for political advertising
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive officer, will be on Capitol Hill for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the use of social media platforms by foreign influence on Capitol Hill September 5, 2018 in Washington , DC, sworn in.
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Twitter set out details of its new policy advertising policy weeks after its CEO Jack Dorsey announced on Twitter that the platform would no longer allow these ads.
But even if the company wanted to clarify how the policy will develop, some big questions remain unanswered.
The new changes to Twitter will ban the promotion of political content and ads of any kind by political figures such as candidates, political parties and government officials worldwide. It will also regulate what are known as “cause-based” ads, which are restricted in terms of targeted advertising and require a certification process. The new policy will come into effect on November 22nd.
The new directive comes amid a major debate about whether large technology platforms should allow political ads on their websites. After Twitter denounced the practice in late October, Facebook stuck to its controversial policy of allowing political ads with misleading information. Meanwhile, Google has largely remained silent in the skirmish, but both Google and Facebook have reportedly considered changes under pressure. The conversation has raised concerns about the ability of political actors to use the tech companies as a channel for micro-targeting news to narrow down segments and influence election results.
Twitter says it defines political advertising as referring to “a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, electoral measure, piece of legislation, ordinance, policy, or court outcome”. Ads asking for votes or financial support will be banned. The policy also prohibits advocacy for or against any of these types of political content that is prohibited by the policy.
The policy prohibits advertisements of any kind from any candidate, political party, or government official being elected or appointed. The United States also bans ads from PACs and SuperPACs, as well as 501 (c) (4) or tax-exempt welfare organizations.
In a call on Friday with Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal, policy and trust and security chief, and Del Harvey, vice president of trust and security, they admitted that the new policy would be somewhat fluid.
“We’re moving very fast here because we think the timing is urgent,” said Gadde, adding that elections are coming up. “We are also prepared that we are going to make some mistakes and we need to learn and improve these policies over time.”
Limitations on Targeting Reason-Based Ads
While several political advertising experts disagree with Twitter’s approach of banning political advertising altogether, a measure that many believe will help incumbent candidates against challengers, they also say that micro-targeting often does the is the true source of damage from digital political advertising. Twitter’s new policy will limit micro-targeting, in line with suggestions from many researchers.
Micro-targeting means “serving ads or content in these tightly divided segments, personalizing them, and exploiting vulnerabilities,” Rutgers Law School professor Ellen Goodman previously told CNBC. Twitter’s new policy states that cause-based ads cannot be targeted by zip code or tailored audiences, and cannot contain terms associated with banned advertisers or political content or affiliations.
With its new rules for cause-based advertising, Twitter could face similar problems as Facebook. Environmental Responsibility or Social Justice. “Twitter has an in-place certification process for advertisers who want to run ads related to candidates, elections, and specific laws.
When asked if Twitter would take action on advertisements with false information, Harvey said the company had often had public conversations about false posts on Twitter. Because it is an open platform, people can be held accountable by other users. Twitter is trying to avoid isolating those conversations on specific topics, she added.
It is unclear whether Twitter would post a list of categories that would be considered “caused advertising”.
Exceptions for news publishers
Twitter’s new policy includes a tight caveat for news publishers who are already exempt from the company’s ad serving policy. Publishers can advertise based on fact-based reports, but they cannot buy ads that advocate or oppose a political candidate or other prohibited topic. For example, publishers are not allowed to post a political recommendation as an advertisement.
Publishers must already meet Twitter’s criteria to be exempt, Harvey said on a call with reporters. For example, state media are already banned from advertising on Twitter. In order to meet Twitter’s exception criteria under its policy for ads on issues, US publishers must receive at least 200,000 unique visitors per month, must not be primarily user-generated and, among other things, not address a single issue.
According to its own policy, Twitter will be forced to walk a fine line when it comes to determining what is fact-based reporting rather than advocacy. The company has been the target of conservative lawmakers who claimed the company’s approach to content moderation was influenced by political bias. Twitter’s decisions about which ad publishers may be placed and who may place them are scrutinized equally by its users and the legislature.