Online advertising on social platforms is changing. Google and Meta no longer have majority control over advertising money, according to the Wall Street Journal, with Amazon and TikTok stepping in to steer advertisers to other platforms. Twitter is also keen to divert ad dollars to its platform as it announced yesterday that it would “relax” its policy on political ads and allow more “occasion-based” ads. The company also plans to expand “in the coming weeks” to accommodate other forms of political advertising.
Promising to share more details soon, the @TwitterSafety account tweeted Tuesday that Twitter’s goal is to “align its advertising policies with those of television and other media” from now on. It’s unclear exactly what that means on a platform like Twitter, but the Federal Communications Commission specified that it is working to limit censorship and ensure equal opportunities for political advertisers. This aligns somewhat with Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s stated position of advocating “absolutist freedom of expression.” Twitter may also seek to mimic the FCC to reduce the company’s responsibility for verifying or ensuring the accuracy of all political advertising content.
Twitter’s recent policy change reverses a 2019 decision by the platform to ban political ads to limit the spread of misinformation. The 2019 ban contain exceptions for some causal advertising, where advertisers were allowed to perform some microtargeting of Twitter users based on limited geographic location information, keywords and interests. Specifically, advertisers were not allowed to target audiences based on political affiliation, such as “conservative” or “liberal.” Under those previous rules, Twitter-certified purpose-based advertisers have approved to promote content created to “educate, raise awareness, and/or encourage people to take action related to civic engagement, economic growth, environmental protection, or social justice “.
In 2019 is the said the Electronic Frontier Foundation that Twitter’s restriction of causal advertising was not good policy, since the microtargeting exemption applies to “an almost impossibly wide range of ads alongside the prohibited campaign content.” The EFF said this policy had “the potential to worsen the problem it’s trying to solve,” and suggested that smaller social media platforms that “let users choose the moderation approaches that work for them” do more to empower their users to “protect themselves from it”. manipulative advertising.”
The coming weeks will tell whether Musk provides more tools to empower Twitter users to protect themselves, or whether his company simply lets users distinguish between valid cause and manipulative ads. It could be that Twitter’s priority of expanding public conversation relies on users relying on their own judgement. in November 2022, said Twitter Its mission has always been to be the marketplace of the internet, insisting that this is only possible when everyone “has the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers”.
Ars could not immediately reach Twitter or the EFF for comment.
Bloomberg reports that prior to the 2019 ban, political advertising was a “marginal source of revenue” for Twitter, bringing in less than $3 million during the 2018 midterm elections. That’s a handful compared to Twitter’s ad revenue today S&P Global Market Intelligence reports in 2021 it was $4.5 billion. And while Musk was stingy in 2022 — he couldn’t even pay $136,000 in rent for Twitter headquarters — he seems focused on bigger monetization strategies for Twitter than raking in a few million dollars in ad revenue. In an investor pitch deck reviewed by the New York TimesMusk said he plans to grow Twitter revenue to $26 billion by 2028, with an expected $10 billion inflow from Twitter Blue subscriptions.
Whatever Musk’s intentions for relaxing Twitter’s political advertising policies — whether it’s for profit, to drive more Twitter engagement, or some other motivation — the policy update has some potential for spreading misinformation on the platform. That’s alarming for some users, especially given that Twitter’s recent decision to relax its COVID-19 misinformation policy has already caused drama. This week, The Washington Post reported that “unsubstantiated” tweets from anti-vaccine and right-wing provocateurs proliferated on Twitter, claiming without evidence that NFL player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during a Monday game because he had been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Until more details about the political advertising policy change are officially announced, Twitter has tried to reassure users that their safety will not be compromised by the decision.
“As with all policy changes, we will first ensure that our approach to content review and approval is protecting people on Twitter,” the @TwitterSafety account tweeted.
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