Twitter To Require Disclosures For Political Ads

Twitter plans to begin requiring disclaimers on political ads, the company said Tuesday.

The microblogging service said it intends to launch a new "transparency center," which will show all ads on the service and will also include personalized information about how ads were targeted to particular users. The new center will also have a dedicated section for electioneering ads -- meaning ads that clearly refer to a candidate or a political party connected to that candidate. That section will include disclosures about the total campaign ad spend, the funding organization and targeting demographics. The company also says that electioneering ads will have a new look, aimed at distinguishing them from other ads.



Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), who is co-sponsoring a bill that would subject large Web platforms to some of the same disclosure rules as TV companies, praised the company's move. "A good first step, particularly public disclosure of ads info," he tweeted. "Online political ads need more transparency & disclosure."

Last week Warner, along with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and John McCain (R-Arizona), unveiled the Honest Ads Act, which would require digital platforms with at least 50,000,000 monthly viewers to maintain publicly available copies of political ads purchased by groups spending more than a total of $500. The companies also would have to maintain public records about the target audience, number of views, rates charged, and dates and times of publication.

The Federal Election Commission is also considering whether online ads should be required to include the same disclaimers as TV and newspaper ads.

Separately, News Media Alliance CEO David Chavern told Congress Tuesday that Google and Facebook should make an effort to combat fake news distributed through their platforms.

Testifying at a House Oversight subcommittee on information technology, Chavern argued that traditional newspaper publishers have long helped to ensure that political advertisers comply with the disclosure rules, even though advertisers are the ones who must make the disclaimers.

He added: "It is now time that Google and Facebook be asked to make the same commitments as publishers and modernize their platforms to help stem the flow of misinformation."

This isn't the first time that the News Media Alliance, which represents many of the country's biggest newspapers, has taken aim at tech companies. In July, the organization urged Congress to revise antitrust laws in order to allow newspapers to bargain collectively with Google and Facebook.

Much of the current activity on Capitol Hill stems from recent revelations that Russian operatives purchased online ads during the last election cycle. Facebook said last month that accounts connected to Russia purchased around 3,000 political ads for $100,000 between June of 2015 and May of 2017. Twitter said recently that it found 200 accounts connected to the ones identified by Facebook. Google also may have run at least $50,000 worth of ads connected to Russia.

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