Business

Twitter Plans New Political Ad Restrictions

Posted May 24, 2018 3:00 p.m. EDT
Updated May 24, 2018 3:01 p.m. EDT

SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter said Thursday that it would increase transparency of political campaign ads, a change aimed at preventing foreign manipulation of the coming midterm elections.

The company said it planned to restrict who could run political ads on its service, requiring those running political ads for federal elections to identify themselves and certify that they are in the United States. Foreign nationals will not be able to target political ads to people in the United States, Twitter said.

The social network will also start giving prominent visual cues, including a badge and a disclaimer, to campaign ads. Accounts used for political campaigning must have a profile photo and other markers consistent with those of the campaign they are associated with, and any advertiser’s Twitter biography must include a website that gives valid contact information.

Candidates and political committees will be required to provide their identification number from the Federal Election Commission. Those who are not registered must submit a notarized form.

Enforcement of the policy will begin this summer.

“We are committed to enforcing stricter policies for political advertisers and providing clear, transparent disclosure for all ads on Twitter, with more details for political campaigning ads,” said a statement from Vijaya Gadde, who runs Twitter’s legal and public policy teams, and Bruce Falck, its general manager of revenue product.

Twitter’s adjustments are similar to efforts by Facebook to verify political ads on its platform. Both companies have faced extended criticism in Washington for allowing Russians to use them to try to manipulate the 2016 presidential election. Some lawmakers have called for laws that require disclosures like those that Facebook and Twitter are promising.

In April, Facebook began requiring proof that people posting an ad related to a political campaign in the United States are in the country — by giving the last four digits of their Social Security number, a picture of a government-issued identification and a U.S. mailing address. Facebook said it would mail a person a code that authorized him or her to buy Facebook political ads once the company had verified the other information.

Facebook said Thursday that it would begin including a “paid for” label on the top of any political ads in the United States. Clicking on the label will take people to a page where they can view the cost of the ad, and the demographic breakdown of the audience that viewed the ad.

Facebook has promised to keep an archive of all political ads for the next seven years, or through a full congressional election cycle. The ads are available to Facebook members at facebook.com/politicalcontentads.

The company is also promoting its other efforts to combat false information on the site. In addition to working with independent fact-checking teams, the company said this week, it will start a news literacy campaign to help teach the American public how to spot disinformation. It will include information posted at the top of the Facebook News Feed, as well as a print advertisement campaign that the company said would reach 170 million people in the country.

Facebook also said it would begin working with academics to measure the volume and effects of disinformation on the social media site.

Twitter, in addition to the new ad disclosure rules, said it would start labeling tweets from people running for office — but only with the candidates’ permission. A label on the biography page of a candidate would indicate that the person was running for office and the seat being pursued. The label would follow each tweet sent or retweeted from that account.

Twitter has begun requesting approval from candidates and expects to begin the feature at the end of the month.

“When people are looking for news and information, they turn to Twitter to find out what’s happening in the world right now,” Bridget Coyne, a senior public policy manager, wrote in a post outlining the new labeling policy. “This is especially true during elections.”