Two months after releasing its ads transparency center, Twitter announced its new policy on how it will regulate issue ads — ads that “advocate for legislative issues of national importance.”
Twitter already said that it was working on establishing an issue ads policy, so today’s news doesn’t come as a surprise. It also comes about three months after Facebook rolled out its own issue ad policy.
Enforcement of the new policy will begin on September 30. For now it only applies U.S. advertisers who run ads that reference a specific election or candidate, or advocate for a certain stance on one of the following topics: abortion, civil rights, climate change, guns, health care, immigration, national security, social security, taxes, and trade.
Organizations and individuals seeking to run issue ads will first have to verify their identity and location with Twitter by supplying a U.S. mailing address, a photo ID, and the Twitter handles they own. Organizations will also have to include an employer or taxpayer identification number. Issue ads will be labeled as such in U.S. Twitter users’ timeline, so they can see who is paying for the ad.
Twitter’s issue ads policy differs from Facebook’s in a couple of ways: Twitter’s issue ads policy encompasses 10 topics, while Facebook’s encompasses 20. Some of the topics that Facebook’s issue ads policy covers that Twitter’s doesn’t are education and infrastructure.
Additionally, Twitter said that it is exempting news organizations from adhering to the issue ads policy, while Facebook does not give them an exemption. In a blog post announcing the issue ads policy, Twitter stated that “we don’t believe that news organizations running ads on Twitter that report on these issues, rather than advocate for or against them, should be subject to this [issue ads] policy.”
Publications have to apply for this exemption, and can also apply to have certain journalists exempted from this policy, so that they can pay to promote certain journalists’ tweets.
Exemptions will be granted to publications that have at least 200,000 monthly unique visitors in the U.S., have “contact” and “about” sections on their website, offer a searchable archive for their articles, and include information about their editorial staff. Publications also must not be “primarily a user-generated or aggregated content platform,” or “dedicated to advocating on a single issue,” though it is unclear how Twitter will determine this.
Twitter’s announcement comes just two months before Facebook, Twitter, and Google — among other tech companies — will face a key test in maintaining users’ trust during the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it has been revealed, the Internet Research Agency and other Russia-linked groups created accounts and bought ads on social platforms in an attempt to sway voters.
Earlier this month, Facebook and Twitter said that they removed hundreds of accounts determined to be involved in Russian and Iranian propaganda efforts.