Twitter goes live with political ads ban

Two weeks ago, Twitter announced the ban of all political ads from its platform with the argument that political messages shouldn’t be paid for to get in front of many people regardless of comprehension or interest to paraphrase. The idea is that “political message reach should be earned, not bought,” as stated in the new policy section accompanying the announcement. The company today commenced the implementation of the new ad policy on its platform.

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No political content as Twitter defined it may be promoted; Candidates, parties, governments or officials, PACs, and certain political nonprofit groups are banned from promoting content altogether. The new rules apply globally and to all ad types.

Basically, no politically related messaging may be advertised henceforth a stand Facebook has disagreed with arguing that people of voting age are discerning enough to choose what to listen to, who to listen to and ultimately who to vote or not vote for. While Twitter argue that the influence of political ads is magnanimous Facebook beg to differ.

The new rules reads thus:

We define political content as content that references a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive, or judicial outcome.

Also banned are;

Ads that contain references to political content, including appeals for votes, solicitations of financial support, and advocacy for or against any of the above-listed types of political content.

Political action committees, PACs and SuperPACs are totally banned from advertising on the platform since any content they would promote will aim to influence the political process. Also banned are 501 (c4) non-profit firms who reputed big spenders on all things political.

There are of course exemptions, both for news organizations that want to promote coverage of political issues, and “cause-based” content deemed non-political. This makes sense but even still Twitter puts a restriction – the news site will have to boast of over 200,000 unique visitors monthly, make their own content with their own people, and not be primarily focused on a single issue.

As Twitter’s policy states, it will allow “ads that educate, raise awareness, and/or call for people to take action in connection with civic engagement, economic growth, environmental stewardship, or social equity causes.” This in particular is generating concerns as it leaves room to interpretations. What exactly constitutes “civic engagement” and “social equity causes”?

Clearly this is meant to allow promotion of content like voter registration drives, disaster relief work, and so on. But it’s more than possible someone will try to qualify, say, an anti-immigrant rally as “public conversation around important topics.” as Techcrunch analysed.

Twitter’s policy lead, Vijaya Gadde said that the company will attempt to be transparent with its decisions on individual issues and clear about changes to the rules going forward.

“This is new territory,” she tweeted. “As with every policy we put into practice, it will evolve and we’ll be listening to your feedback.”