Twitter has announced it will be “dramatically” more transparent about the political adverts you see on your feed, amid fears Russia sought to influence the 2016 election with adverts on social media.
From now on, any advert promoting a specific candidate or party will be clearly labelled as electioneering and state who bought them.
The site will also build a “Transparency Center” that would:
Show all ads that are currently running or that have run on Twitter, including Promoted-Only ads
Disclose total campaign ad spend by advertiser
Disclose the identity of the organisation funding the campaign
Reveal the targeting demographics, such as age, gender and geography
Show historical data about all electioneering ad spending by advertiser
For now adverts that do not name a specific candidate will not be affected but Twitter said it would work on this.
But it warned there was no “clear industry definition” for political adverts that only addressed issues.
“We are committed to stricter policies and transparency around issue-based ads,” Twitter’s Bruce Falck wrote in a blog.
“There is currently no clear industry definition for issue-based ads but we will work with our peer companies, other industry leaders, policymakers, and ad partners to clearly define them quickly and integrate them into the new approach.”
Political ads will also face:
Stricter requirements on who can serve these ads and limits on targeting options
A requirement to identify as the work of an “electioneering advertisers”
Introduce stronger penalties for advertisers who violate policies
Falck’s blog specifically mentions the Honest Ads Act, which congressional representatives introduced to “help prevent foreign interference in future elections” and that “Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and placing political ads on platforms such as Facebook”.
Senator John McCain said: “In the wake of Russia’s attack on the 2016 election, it is more important than ever to strengthen our defenses against foreign interference in our elections.
“Unfortunately, US laws requiring transparency in political campaigns have not kept pace with rapid advances in technology, allowing our adversaries to take advantage of these loopholes to deceive millions of American voters with impunity.”
Twitter’s rule change comes amid a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the issue. Twitter told the committee it had suspended more than 200 accounts over concerns they were Russian bots.
Earlier this month, Facebook said 10 million people had seen adverts bought by a shadowy Russian agency during the election.
Twitter’s new rules will go out in the US first but will follow in the rest of the world.