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Twitter will now label issue-specific ads to increase transparency


Twitter will soon require US organizations, which purchase issue-specific ads, to disclose more information about themselves. They will also have to begin labeling issue ads as promoted in a bid to “increase transparency” about advertising on the platform. Executives of the company announced the policy change in a blog post.

The new policy targets ‘promoted content’ referring to an election or political candidates and “ads that advocate for legislative issues of national importance.” These include organizations which advocate for issues including abortion, civil rights, climate change, guns, healthcare, immigration, national security, social security, taxes, and trade among others.

To purchase ads in either category, promoters have to verify their identity and be located within the US. If approved for promoting issues, all such ads will be labeled with a “promoted” tag. Promoted tweets, and their accounts will have to furnish in each tweet which organization paid for that ad. The new policy will come into effect from September 30 only in the US. Earlier in May, Twitter had brought in a similar policy for political campaigns and ads as well, the company added certification requirements for those running political campaigns ads.

The company is introducing these policies in wake of events over the last year which have reduced public trust in tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter, and invited the threat of regulation and lawsuits from US lawmakers.

The policy change comes a week after global tech giants — Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft — discovered and terminated influence campaigns which were found to have originated largely in Iran, but also in Russia.

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Read: Some of Facebook’s now suspended accounts actually bought & distributed ads

Tech companies now face the heat from US lawmakers. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg and COO Sheryl Sandberg will testify to the US Senate Intelligence Committee — which oversees the government’s intelligence and surveillance efforts. Larry Page, Alphabet CEO, was also invited but has not confirmed his attendance yet, per Chicago Tribune.

Twitter has changed the following policies in a matter of months:

  • In May, it tightened rules on advertising political campaigns and ads; certification and labeling.
  • Twitter purged over 70 million accounts in the over two months ending July as part of its crackdown on suspicious activity and fake users on the platform.
  • Since June, new users signing up on Twitter are now required to authenticate their accounts with either an email address or a phone number — aimed at removing automated accounts.

News organizations exempt

Twitter’s new policy will not effect news organizations as the company says, “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.” Instead, Twitter has outlined criteria for news organizations to be exempted.

The publication must not be pushing content that is disproportionately user-generated or aggregated, must not be advocating a single issue, and most importantly have 200,000 monthly unique users in the US. The news organizations will have to be transparent and display information about reporters, editorial staff, their contact information.

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