Twitter to Disclose Political Ad Info

Twitter has updated its ad policy to require disclosure of the backers of online political ads, as there have been for years on TV and radio.

Twitter announced the change in a blog post New-Transparency-For-Ads-on-Twitter.html at about the same time the House Information Technology Subcommittee was holding a hearing on extending TV- and radio-like election ad disclosure requirements to online ads.

"Today, we're announcing steps to dramatically increase transparency for all ads on Twitter, including political ads and issue-based ads. We will also be improving controls for our customers and adopting stricter advertising policies," Twitter GM revenue product and engineering Bruce Falck said.

"To make it clear when you are seeing or engaging with an electioneering ad, we will now require that electioneering advertisers identify their campaigns as such. We will also change the look and feel of these ads and include a visual political ad indicator," said Falck.

Electioneering communications are ones that advocate for the election of a particular candidate and run within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election.

Twitter will create an online "transparency Center" that will include:

1. "All ads that are currently running or that have run on Twitter, including Promoted-Only ads
2. "Disclosure on total campaign ad spend by advertiser
3. "Transparency about the identity of the organization funding the campaign
4. "Targeting demographics, such as age, gender and geography
5. "Historical data about all electioneering ad spending by advertiser"

It will also update its policies to:

6. "Include stricter requirements on who can serve these ads and limit targeting options
7. "Require electioneering advertisers to self-identify as such
8. "Introduce stronger penalties for advertisers who violate policies"

As to issue ads, which are in a different political ad category, Twitter says that while "there is currently no clear industry definition for issue-based ads," it will "will work with our peer companies, other industry leaders, policy makers, and ad partners to clearly define them quickly and integrate them into the new approach mentioned above."

Sens. Mark Warner (D-W. Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), have joined with others to introduce the Honest Ads Act, which would require public disclosure of online political ads.  Warner, appropriately, tweeted his response to the Twitter move:

A good first step, particularly public disclosure of ads info. Online political ads need more transparency & disclosure. We need #HonestAds

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) October 24, 2017

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.