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Twitter is changing its advertising policies following Russia’s election interference

The company will mark political ads with special labels, and let users see all active ad campaigns on the service.

A silhouette of a man in front of several Twitter bird logos Leon Neal / Getty

Twitter is promising major changes to its advertising policies, including new special distinctions for political ads, after learning earlier this year that Russia used its platform and other digital services like Facebook to try and influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Twitter already reported that it found roughly 200 accounts tied to Russian sources and a number of ads purchased by Kremlin-backed news outlet Russia Today. The company is set to testify publicly next week in front of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to answer other questions about how Russian sources may have used Twitter during the election.

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Ahead of those testimonies, Twitter is pledging to provide more transparency around all of its advertising, especially political ads. The company announced a number of new policies Tuesday that it will roll out in the coming months to help people better understand who is advertising on Twitter, and why.

Among the new policies:

  • Twitter will create what it is calling an “Advertising Transparency Center” where users can review all current ad campaigns running on the platform, regardless of whether or not they are political ad campaigns.
  • Twitter will now designate all political ads on the service with a special icon and a “Promoted by” label along the bottom. Users will also be able to see who paid for the ad, how much was spent and who it was targeted to.
  • Twitter will require “electioneering advertisers to self-identify as such,” and will implement “stronger penalties for advertisers who violate policies.” The company did not specify what those penalties might be.
  • Users will also be able to see how long all advertising campaigns have been running on Twitter, including any photos or videos linked to those campaigns. A company spokesperson told Recode that nonpolitical ad campaigns will likely remain visible for users to see a week after they’ve ended, though this timing is still being finalized. Political ad campaigns that have ended will remain visible for even longer, though again, Twitter is working out the timing.
Political ads on Twitter will soon have new labels so people know they are political ads.
Twitter

The timing of these changes is not coincidental; it’s likely that Twitter wanted to have something concrete to show congressional investigators next week in D.C. In Twitter’s initial meetings with Congress, during which the company unveiled the 200 accounts with ties to Russia, Sen. Mark Warner from the Senate Intelligence Committee called Twitter’s presentation “inadequate,” adding that the company “showed an enormous lack of understanding ... of how serious this issue is.”

Twitter is also trying to get ahead of potential new regulation. Warner and other lawmakers are pushing for stricter political ad regulations with a new bill unveiled last week called the Honest Ads Act.

The new bill would require internet platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google to provide more data and transparency around political ads that they show their users.

One thing missing from Twitter’s new policies? How it plans to tackle issue-based ads, or ads that promote a specific cause, like gay marriage or Black Lives Matter, but don’t necessarily endorse a specific politician or party. These are the kinds of ads Russian accounts bought on Facebook, and Twitter hasn’t decided how it will handle labeling or regulating them.

“There is currently no clear industry definition for issue-based ads but we will work with our peer companies, other industry leaders, policy makers, and ad partners to clearly define them quickly and integrate them into the new approach mentioned above,” the company wrote on its blog.

Update: Warner approves of Twitter’s plan:


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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