What’s in Twitter’s transparency political ad promise?


By ADAM EARNHEARDT

acearnheardt@ysu.edu

Twitter is promising more transparency in the political advertisements posted to their platform.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Twitter has promised more oversight and stricter policies regarding political tweets, including paid campaign ads. This enhanced policy is an attempt by Twitter to weed out even more fake accounts and misleading ads before the next big U.S. election takes shape.

“We continue to be committed to enforcing stricter policies for political advertisers and providing clear, transparent disclosure for ads,” Twitter posted in a news release last week. “This is part of our overall goal to protect the health of the public conversation on our service and to provide meaningful context around all political entities who use our advertising products.”

In May 2018, Twitter announced a new political campaigning policy aimed at policing content. The policy applies to content for political campaigns and candidates. It also applies to what Twitter calls “issue advocacy” advertising.

In other words, Twitter is policing ads that refer to an election, “clearly identified” candidates, and ads that advocate for some issue of national importance.

Identifying a candidate appears easy enough to do under this new policy – their policy simply reads “any candidate running for federal, state or local election.”

However, examples of issues of national importance aren’t as clear cut. Twitter’s examples included healthcare, gun control, climate change, immigration and taxes. Advertisers who promote these issues are required to use a “Paid for by” disclaimer, similar to what we see and hear in ads on TV and radio.

“We launched our political campaigning policy in the United States to provide clear insight into how we define political content and who is advertising political content,” Twitter reported. “In conjunction, we launched the Ads Transparency Center (ATC).”

This means Twitter users around the world can view political ads. We now get greater detail on political campaign ads (i.e., more transparency), including how much money was spent on an ad and for whom the ad was targeted (i.e., age, gender, location, etc.).

Last week, Twitter expanded this enhanced transparency to include Australia, European Union member states and India – countries with high political campaign Twitter use.

Their plans call for an expansion of the policy to include other regions around the world throughout 2019.

“We strongly believe that meaningful transparency is the best path forward for all advertising products we offer, particularly those that are utilized in a political context,” Twitter said.

Enforcement of this new policy begins March 11. On that date, campaign advertisers will need to be certified if they want to post political campaign and issue ads.

Political campaign advertisers can apply now for certification and go through every step of the process.

To get certified as a candidate or issue advocacy advertiser, search business.twitter.com for more details on the process.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.

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