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Twitter reveals new guidelines and disclosure rules for political ads

Twitter will make political advertisers self-identity and maintain a thorough online presence

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Today, Twitter announced new guidelines and stricter disclosure rules around political advertisements on its platform in response to widespread concern over Russian interference in the 2016 US election. The new rules, which the company refers to as the Political Campaigning Policy, are slated to go live this summer in the US and are designed to tell advertisers how Twitter differentiates a political ad from a standard, non-political one and what methods it will use to make the identity of the advertiser available to the public. Political advertisers can also now apply for certification through Twitter’s dedicated online process.

“As part of this new policy, we will require advertisers who want to run political campaigning ads for Federal elections to self-identify and certify that they are located in the US. Candidates and committees will have to provide their FEC ID, and non-FEC registered organizations and individuals will have to submit a notarized form,” explains Bruce Falck, the revenue product general manager at Twitter, and Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s policy and legal chief, in a blog post. The duo says that once the necessary forms are received, the company will send a letter to the appropriate party to validate the identity and location of the advertiser.

To ensure compliance with existing FEC regulations, Twitter is now reiterating that it does not allow “foreign nationals to target political ads to people who are identified as being in the US.” The company is also demanding that political campaigning ads should be associated with a handle that has a profile photo, a header photo, and a website that is “consistent with its online presence.” The Twitter bio must also include that website and valid contact info. These profiles will also have what Twitter refers to as a visual badge and further disclaimer info on promoted tweets to ensure users are able to differentiate between political and non-political advertising content as well as who paid for the content and whether it was officially authorized by an active US political candidate.

These changes are largely in line with the announcement Twitter made in April that it would be following guidelines outlined in the proposed Honest Ads Act, a bipartisan bill that was first introduced back in October to try and regulate political ad practices on social media. While the bill has not passed, Twitter said it would comply with many of its provisions at the time, and the announcement today marks the first concrete set of rule changes for Twitter following revelations of Russia’s involvement in the election and the subsequent congressional hearings on the subject last fall.

Twitter says it still plans to launch its Ads Transparency Center in the summer that will “go beyond the requirements of the Honest Ads Act” to increase transparency on the platform through more detailed breakdowns of ad spend and targeting demographics. The company is still hammering out its policy on so-called issue ads, or hot-button topics with divisive debates among candidates, and that disclosure rules and further guidelines around ads on those topics “will fall under a separate upcoming policy.” Twitter says it’s also looking into expanding these policies overseas.