Twitter has foutlined how its ban on political ads will work, and it’s considerably clearer if not as clear as some would like. When the ban takes effect on November 22nd, it’ll bar ads for anything referring to candidates, parties, existing officials, legislation, regulation, ballot measures and referendums. They also can’t rally for votes or financial help. Politicians effectively can’t run ads, in other words. It also forbids ads from PACs and other organizations that fuel campaigns. However, the bigger changes for some may involve new policies limiting “cause-based advertising” on the social network.
The new policy follows a two-pronged approach in dealing with political content. The company now prohibits the paid promotion of content with clear references to political parties, candidates, appointed government officials, legislation, referendums, ballot measures, directives, and judicial outcomes.
In the US, that extends to PACs, super PACs, and political nonprofits, and the restriction will remain in place for as long as a politician is in office or campaigning for it. Essentially, all appeals for votes, asking for money, and other activities of political advocacy will be prohibited under the new policy.
Twitter also clarified that issue ads are defined as content that seeks to “educate, raise awareness, and/or call for people to take action in connection with civic engagement, economic growth, environmental stewardship, or social equity causes.”
These will also be restricted under the new rules, but advertisers can still run them as “cause-based ads,” as long as they don’t use microtargeting tools to reach people based on demographics, race, age, or precise location. They must also have to prove their ads don’t have the purpose of influencing political, judicial, or regulatory outcomes.
An important part of the new policy is that news publishers can get exempted from the new content rules as long as it meets certain criteria, such as having a minimum of 200,000 monthly unique visitors in the US and covering factual news as opposed to endorsements or opinion editorials. That doesn’t mean the site can’t publish any such content, but it just won’t be able to promote it on Twitter.
This should clear out some of the concerns expressed by critics who didn’t expect a nuanced policy. That said, the most important thing is for Twitter to show it can properly enforce the new rules on a consistent basis. The company acknowledges that it has its work cut out for itself as it decided to take the risk of policing political ads.
There are concerns about how well Twitter will enforce the new policies. Facebook blocked innocuous LGBT ads due to its approach to issue ads will Twitter risk similar problems? There are also questions as to whether Twitter will have a consistent definition of fact-based reporting in light of allegations of political bias. Legal and policy VP Vijaya Gadde said Twitter was prepared for the possibility of “[making] some mistakes,” though, and made clear that the site would have to “improve this policy over time.” If you’re not a fan of the rules as they are, don’t be surprised if they evolve before long.