Technology

Twitter Takes A Big Step To Make Political Ads More Transparent

Twitter will launch an online portal with details about advertisers and their political messages. Twitter’s latest move to make ads, specifically political ads, more transparent, follows the verbal attacks on social media after reports that Russian-linked accounts spent huge amounts on social media campaigns to influence the U.S. Presidential election.

Twitter political ads
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Making political ads more transparent

“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,” Twitter said in a blog post on Tuesday.

Twitter’s online portal, called the Advertising Transparency Center, will let anyone see the ad campaigns running on Twitter including those that are not part of regular tweets. Additionally, the company is also ready for the independent Media Rating Council (MRC) to audit the advertisement measurement so that the brands are aware of what they are buying. The transparency center would go live in the coming weeks, the company said.

Further, for political ads referring to some specific candidate, users will know the identity of the organization funding the campaign, amount of money that was spent, the demography towards which the ad is targeted and the historical data. The user will also know for how long the ad campaign has been running on Twitter. To make things crystal clear, Twitter will mark all the electioneering ads as “promoted by political account.”

Twitter warned that an unspecified penalty would be slapped on a marketing firm that posts electioneering ads without being transparent about their origin. “People can also report inappropriate ads or give negative feedback (i.e. “I don’t like this ad”) for every ad running on Twitter, whether the ad targets you or not,” the micro-blogging firm said.

Rising pressure on social media platforms

After Facebook confirmed that Russian advertisers spent about $100,000 on 3,000 ads promoting contentious messages before and after the presidential election campaign, Twitter also revealed that Russian-linked media organizations placed more than 1,800 ads during the election. Last month, the company told a Senate intelligence committee investigating the Kremlin’s potential meddling in US politics that it suspended 201 accounts.

Senator Mark Warner, however, said that the efforts by the company are “frankly inadequate,” and that Twitter has failed to realize “how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to democratic institutions and again begs many more questions than they offered.”

Google also came out stating that it has noticed a small amount of ads bought worth $4,700 tracing back to Russian government groups. However, that does not include advertising and accounts on YouTube, something in which investigation is still underway.

All the social networking sites are under increasing pressure from authorities around the world. The latest country to ask if Russia has anything to do with their national decision is the United Kingdom. According to the Guardian, Damian Collins, the UK’s chair of digital, culture, media and sport committee, in a letter to Mark Zuckerberg has asked him to provide them with any information that would help in concluding if Russia influenced Brexit.