Twitter details political ad ban, admits it’s imperfect

The logo for Twitter is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. In a policy published Friday, Twitter said it is banning ads that contain references to political content, including appeals for votes, solicitations of financial support and advocacy for or against political content. The ban also includes any ads by candidates, political parties, elected or appointed government officials. RICHARD DREW/AP
The logo for Twitter is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. In a policy published Friday, Twitter said it is banning ads that contain references to political content, including appeals for votes, solicitations of financial support and advocacy for or against political content. The ban also includes any ads by candidates, political parties, elected or appointed government officials. RICHARD DREW/AP

TWITTER’S new ban on political ads will cover appeals for votes, solicitations for campaign contributions and any political content, but the company quickly acknowledged Friday that it expects to make mistakes as individuals and groups look for loopholes.

Twitter is defining political content to include any ad that references a candidate, political party, government official, ballot measure, or legislative or judicial outcome. The ban also applies to all ads – even non-political ones – from candidates, political parties and elected or appointed government officials.

However, Twitter is allowing ads related to social causes such as climate change, gun control and abortion. People and groups running such ads won’t be able to target those ads down to a user’s ZIP code or use political categories such as “conservative” or “liberal.” Rather, targeting must be kept broad, based on a user’s state or province, for instance.

News organizations will be exempted so they can promote stories that cover political issues. While Twitter has issued guidelines for what counts as a news organization – single-issue advocacy outlets don’t qualify, for instance – it’s unclear if this will be enough to prevent partisan websites from promoting political content.

Twitter announced its worldwide ban on political ads Oct. 30, but didn’t release details until Friday. The policy, which goes into effect next Friday, is in stark contrast to Facebook’s approach of allowing political ads, even if they contain false information. Facebook has said it wants to provide politicians with a “level playing field” for communication and not intervene when they speak, regardless of what they’re saying.

Response to Twitter’s ban has been strong and mixed, with critics questioning the company’s ability to enforce the new policy given its poor history banning hate speech and abuse from its service. The company acknowledges it will make mistakes but says it’s better to start addressing the issue now rather than wait until all the kinks are worked out. (AP)

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