Several Silicon Valley companies have recently come under fire for failing to recognize and own up to their role in last year's highly controversial election. It's believed social networks the likes of Facebook and Twitter failed to monitor fake news that ran rampant during the election period.
They're somewhat correct. Facebook has admitted that a Russia-linked troll farm had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to distribute ads aiming to divide and polarize Americans during the election period. Twitter, on the other hand, has been facing sharp criticism from lawmakers and critics for not doing enough to curb the spread of bots, fake news, propaganda, and hate speech.
At the height of controversy, Facebook promised sweeping changes, such as disclosing which pages bought political ads and if those ads vary depending on who they're being targeted to. Twitter is following suit.
Twitter Promises Ad Transparency
On Tuesday, Oct. 24, the San Francisco-based microblogging service took a major step to address at least one of its issues.
Twitter is planning to launch what it calls as an Advertising Transparency Center that will, for the first time, reveal a list of all ads being run on Twitter for every single user, including how long they've been running, other campaigns that are associated with a particular ad, and which ads are specifically targeted to a user.
It goes way beyond that, however. Twitter has set in place special transparency metrics for electioneering ads. Going forward, it will disclose who's paying for a political ad, what kind of users it's targeting, and — more importantly — the historical record of an advertiser's electioneering ad spending, plus its total ad spend.
Twitter will require electioneering advertisers to reveal themselves as such, plus it'll introduce stronger penalties for those who fail to comply with the policies.
What This Means For You
In addition to seeing more transparency with regard to ads, Twitter says users can also report inappropriate ads or give feedback, such as clicking "I don't like this ad." Twitter claims this will help it remove inappropriate ads faster and show more relevant ones instead.
Rollout Of New Policies
The company will roll out the new policies first in the United States and then globally.
Twitter's sweeping new changes follow last week's introduction of the Honest Ads Act legislation, which seeks to "enhance the integrity of our democracy" by setting in place effective disclosure requirements when it comes to online advertising.
"A good first step, particularly public disclosure of ads info. Online political ads need more transparency & disclosure," said Senate Democrat Mark Warner in a tweet Tuesday, Oct. 24.
The act and, in turn, Twitter's move follow mounting pressure from Washington to police social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook. Unlike traditional media companies, social networks aren't required to disclose who's paying for political ads. This has become a heated topic after Facebook was found to have allowed Russian agents to purchase ads in an attempt to influence last year's election.