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Twitter plans to make political ads more transparent amid Russia revelations

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Twitter plans to make political ads more transparent amid Russia revelations


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Twitter plans to make political ads more transparent amid Russia revelations” was written by Olivia Solon in San Francisco, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 24th October 2017 22.04 UTC

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Twitter has announced the launch of an advertising “transparency center” with stricter rules for political ads in the wake of revelations that social media sites were used to spread Russian propaganda during the 2016 US presidential election.

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“In the coming weeks, we will launch an industry-leading transparency center that will offer everyone visibility into who is advertising on Twitter, details behind those ads, and tools to share your feedback with us,” said Twitter’s Bruce Falck in a blogpost.

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The transparency center will allow people to find out how long ads have been running, what wording and images are being used throughout the campaign and information on how those ads are being targeted at users based on their demographic details.

For political ads that refer to a specific candidate (electioneering ads), users will be able to discover the identity of the organisation funding the campaign, the total campaign ad spend, the targeting demographics they have chosen and historical data. When electioneering ads appear on Twitter they will also be marked out as such with the messaging “promoted by political account”.

The changes would not affect political issue-based ads that do not name a specific candidate, although Falck said Twitter was working on this. This means that the anti-refugee messaging that insisted France was operating under Sharia law used by Secure America Now to target swing states would not be subject to the same scrutiny.

“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 mentioned above,” Falck said.

The changes come part-way through a Senate intelligence committee investigation into the Kremlin’s potential meddling in US politics in which Twitter is implicated.

Following revelations that Facebook had sold more than 3,000 election ads linked to a Russian agency, Twitter cross-referenced those advertisers with its own to discover similar political advertising on its own network. Twitter subsequently suspended 201 accounts, the company told the committee at the end of September.

Senator Mark Warner described Twitter’s internal investigation as revealed in a presentation to the committee as “frankly inadequate”.

The Democrat accused Twitter of failing to grasp “how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to democratic institutions and again begs many more questions than they offered”.

“There is a lot more work they have to do,” he told reporters on 28 September.

Last week Warner, along with senators Amy Klobuchar and John McCain, introduced legislation dubbed the Honesty Act requiring online platforms with at least 50 million monthly users to make a public record of advertisers who spend at least $500 on political ads regarding campaigns or significant legislative issues.

Twitter appears to be pre-empting such legislation. Warner described Tuesday’s announcement as “a good first step”.

The changes will be made to the US before rolling out globally.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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