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New Twitter Ad Policy: What You Need To Know

November 22, 2019

This post originally appeared on the Proof Strategies blog on November 21, 2019. 

Just in time for the 2020 US federal campaign season, Twitter’s new political advertising policy starts today, November 22. What does this mean for advertisers?  If you advertise on Twitter, it’s crucial to digest and understand this new policy. Twitter is implementing an advertising policy that will prohibit the paid promotion of all political content.

Proof Strategies Director of Digital Strategy, Chris Burright, believes we can save you money. “It is important to remember that Twitter’s ads platform is based on an auction system where organizations bid to capture the attention of users. Historically, political organizations have been big spenders on the platform, thus contributing to a lift in the average ad price. With these advertisers out of the auction, the biggest change that advertisers can expect is a drastic drop in ad prices.” Big spenders, such as political candidates, are going to be forced to exit the market and find other ways to influence the political arena.

What does this mean for you? Violation of the policy can lead to account termination. And under the new policy, “political content” refers to any “content that references a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive, or judicial outcome.”

Twitter announced the change at the end of October in a thread of tweets pushed out by Twitter’s owner, Jack Dorsey. He explained, “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.“ On Twitter, advertisers have the ability to target users with content they have not necessarily opted into seeing and advertisers have the power to micro-target false narratives to specific groups of social media users and persuade political decisions. According to Twitter, their goal is to end these practices and the spread of political misinformation.

Where this policy can get messy is messaging for cause-based issues.

Twitter will allow ads with messages about issues such as climate change, social justice, and poverty. However, advertisers cannot push a specific result on these issues. In short, advertisers can’t advocate for or against a specific outcome.  “Since most ad content is reviewed and flagged by automated processes, there is an expectation that some content will be flagged mistakenly.  Organizations should forecast delays in approval times before ads go live and account for that in their deployment timelines,” says Chris.

Twitter has the discretion not to approve an ad if they believe it advocates for a cause-based issue. Vijaya Gadde, legal, policy, and trust and safety lead at Twitter, acknowledged that “We’re going to make some mistakes, and we’re going to have to learn and improve this policy over time.” Despite the launch of this new policy, there will be tweaks to improve it over time. The bottom line is Twitter is working to put the decision to see political content in the hands of the user instead of advertisers. As you can imagine, this policy opens up questions from social issue advocacy groups that advertise on Twitter and whether their ads will be allowed following November 22.

This policy opens up a broader conversation around misinformation on social media and fake news. Before this policy, advertisers were allowed to say just about anything to promote themselves, whether that was detrimental comments about their opponents or praise of their own agenda.