Following Facebook’s lead, Twitter will begin labeling in-stream ads from political candidates and those which “advocate for legislative issues of national importance”, in order to provide more transparency over politically-motivated advertising, and reduce issue manipulation.
As you can see here, ads that fall into these categories will now have a specific (issue) label attached. Those under the first category – provided by political candidates – will have an additional ‘Paid for by’ label beneath the tweet.
Additional information will also be added into Twitter’s recently launched Ad Transparency Center, enabling users to get more context on each.
As with Facebook, Twitter has taken the broader step of including ‘issues-based’ ads in their definition here, because focussing on ads from candidates themselves would be too narrow. The vast majority of the ads found in the recent investigations into manipulation by politically motivated groups ahead of the 2016 US Presidential Election were not linked to the candidates themselves, so the expanded definition of ‘issues’ ads will give Twitter, and Facebook, more scope to weed out such misuse.
“Examples of legislative issues of national importance include topics such as abortion, civil rights, climate change, guns, healthcare, immigration, national security, social security, taxes, and trade. These are the top-level issues we are considering under this policy, and we expect this list to evolve over time.”
Advertisers who are seeking to run ads within these categories will also need to complete a certification process to verify their identity and information – though interestingly, Twitter has added an exemption for news organizations, a step which Facebook didn’t (at least initially) take:
“The intention of this policy is to provide the public with greater transparency into ads that seek to influence people’s stance on issues that may influence election outcomes. We don’t believe that news organizations running ads on Twitter that report on these issues, rather than advocate for or against them, should be subject to this policy.”
Facebook’s policies include news publishers, which has caused some tension. They have sought to soften this stance, but they’re still working on an optimal solution.
In this context, Twitter’s approach makes sense, though it’ll be interesting to see which publishers meet the platform’s criteria for exemption, and which don’t – and whether that sparks a new row over platform censorship.
Enforcement of Twitter’s new policies will begin on September 30th, initially in the US only. Twitter says that it will look to expand its political content policies globally as part of its ongoing effort to improve transparency, and ensure its platform is not misused for such purpose.
You can read more about Twitter’s new political ad policies, and exemptions, here.