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Twitter Releases New Political Ad Policy Following Announcement of Ban on Political Ads

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was heavily praised last month when he announced, in no uncertain terms, that Twitter would ban all political advertising on its platform.

This followed a speech from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in which he defended his platform’s decision not to subject political ads to fact-checking, under the guise of ‘voice and free expression‘ – i.e. letting the people decide what’s true and what’s not from political candidates. By comparison, Dorsey’s stance was a welcome relief, a social platform CEO who was willing to take a stand.

But even as Dorsey announced it, others – like Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, and Instagram chief Adam Mosseri – questioned how it might actually work in practice.

Now, Twitter has released its full, revised political ads policy, which doesn’t go as far as initially suggested, but does seek to limit the use of Twitter ads for political campaigning.

First off, Twitter says that it will prohibit the promotion of political content, with “political content” defined as:

“Content that references a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive, or judicial outcome. Ads that contain references to political content, including appeals for votes, solicitations of financial support, and advocacy for or against any of the above-listed types of political content, are prohibited under this policy. We also do not allow ads of any type by candidates, political parties, or elected or appointed government officials.”

Which seems petty clear-cut – but what about the noted conflict between political campaigning and activism by non-politically affiliated groups?

For this element, Twitter has also launched a new ad category called ‘Cause-based advertising‘.

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Under its ’cause based’ banner, Twitter will allow for restricted promotion of ads that:

“Educate, raise awareness, and/or call for people to take action in connection with civic engagement, economic growth, environmental stewardship, or social equity causes.” 

These ads cannot be used to “drive political, judicial, legislative, or regulatory outcomes”, and advertisers will need to be certified to run such promotions.

Twitter will also limit the targeting capacity of any such ads:

“Targeting is restricted and limited to geo, keyword, and interest targeting. No other targeting types are allowed, including tailored audiences.    

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  • Geo-targeting may only happen at the state, province, or region level and above. Zipcode level targeting is not allowed.
  • Keyword and interest targeting may not include terms associated with political content, prohibited advertisers, or political leanings or affiliations (e.g., “conservative,” “liberal,” “political elections,” etc.).”

​Additionally, news publishers who meet Twitter’s exemption criteria will be allowed to run ads that reference political content and/or prohibited advertisers under its political content policy, “but may not include advocacy for or against those topics or advertisers”. So publishers can promote their coverage of the news, but not opinion pieces which advocate for a specific political angle.

That’s quite a few exceptions, a lot of wrinkles and potential gaps that Twitter will need to work out.

As noted by Will Oremus of OneZero:

“What it all means is that Twitter will now be in the business of divining the primary goal of every advertiser who places an ad that might have political ramifications, and deciding which ones will be allowed and which won’t. If that sounds hard to do in the United States, where Twitter is headquartered, imagine the difficulty in applying it to every country in which Twitter operates.”

And that really is a key consideration. The big focus here is obviously the upcoming US Presidential Election, but in 2020, there are also major polls happening in Egypt, France, Serbia, Brazil and many more. Even if Twitter does have a team equipped to manage and decide on US election ad approvals, based on these parameters, will it have the same capacity to handle all of these separate polls? Is it possible for Twitter to actually enforce these regulations in a uniform and balanced way across every election in every region?

It seems like a very difficult task – which is partly why Facebook has decided not to undertake it. Another, more skeptical view is that Facebook has less interest in removing divisive, debate-worthy content of this type because it fuels on-platform engagement – in a recent Facebook overview of its policy decisions on such, it included this fake news story as an example of content it won’t remove.

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Flat earth example

That post, by any scientific measure, is misinformation, and by allowing it, Facebook, and other platforms, enable such questioning of established facts to germinate. So should it take a stronger stand? And if it did, what impact would that have on Facebook engagement overall?

Would Facebook stand to lose out, with users then switching to other platforms to share such theories and false facts, and their related discussion?

There does appear to be some logic to the idea that Facebook may not be so interested in enforcing rules against political misinformation because of the higher levels of on-platform engagement it facilitates, and in this respect, Twitter deserves additional praise for even attempting to block the same. The impacts of removing political advertising on Twitter will not be the same as they would be on Facebook (Twitter made $3 million in revenue from political ads around the 2018 US Midterms, while Facebook has projected that US political ads would make up around 0.5% of its 2020 revenue, equivalent to around $428 million). But still, it’s a difficult task, and one which is going to open up Twitter to a lot of scrutiny, while also potentially hurting engagement.

The fact that they’re even attempting such is worthy of praise.

How effective Twitter’s bans will be remains to be seen, but Twitter has said that this is just the first step, and that it expects to learn as it goes, and build out more detail, especially for international markets.

It’s an ambitious attempt to address one of the core issues leveled at social media in recent times – and if it works, it may set a new precedent for dealing with the same on other platforms.

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Elon Musk Says He’ll Pay $11 Billion in Taxes in 2021 But Twitter Wants ‘Proof’

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Elon Musk took to Twitter to clarify once and for all that he will be paying a whopping $11 billion as taxes this year.

If the number of times Elon Musk could count when someone has asked him to pay the full taxes, he would be a very rich..wait, never mind. The Tesla boss is rich beyond any private individual has been in history, reports said.

Musk has increasingly been facing criticism from many politicians and many others who insist he has not been paying taxes as compared to the profits his companies have been making. On Sunday, the SpaceX CEO took to Twitter to share that he will be paying a whopping $11 billion as taxes.

For those wondering, I will pay over $11 billion in taxes this year— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 20, 2021

But some of the questions did not stop. One person tweeted how they needed to see Musk’s tax returns while yet another asked how much percentage was that of his total income.

A few were, however scathing of the government who thought they will add that amount to their pockets rather than using it for some proper development.

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Wow that’s enough to give each person in the world almost $2 million but instead the government will just stick it in their pockets— greg (@greg16676935420) December 20, 2021

Why not $200 billion? Asking for a Senator— litquidity (@litcapital) December 20, 2021

Earlier this week, Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren has tweeted to say that Musk should pay taxes and stop “freeloading off everyone else” after Time magazine named him its “person of the year”.

In response, Musk shot four tweets in which he said that the senator reminded him of a friend’s angry mom who yelled at everybody. He tweeted, ““And if you opened your eyes for 2 seconds, you would realize I will pay more taxes than any American in history this year.” “Don’t spend it all at once … oh wait you did already.”

He added further, “You remind me of when I was a kid and my friend’s angry Mom would just randomly yell at everyone for no reason.”

Musk responded by saying that he “will pay more taxes than any American in history this year”. This Twitter exchange left netizens divided as even though many supported Warren and agreed that Musk should pay more taxes, others felt that he was already doing enough.

Musk’s Tesla is worth about $1 trillion. Over the last few weeks, he has sold nearly $14 billion worth of Tesla shares.

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The Tesla boss has been pushing for his colonize Mars agenda for years now, and has made it very clear in some occasions that he would rather spend the money on putting humanity on the red planet, than pay his taxes. “My plan,” the SpaceX founder tweeted about his fortune, “is to use the money to get humanity to Mars and preserve the light of consciousness.”

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Twitter Admits Policy ‘Errors’ After Far-Right Abuse Its New Rules of Posting Pictures

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Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.

Even the social network admitted the rollout of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.

It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.

Their concerns were quickly validated, with anti-extremism researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulating on Telegram: “Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor.”

“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.

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Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.

Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.

“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.

In announcing the privacy policy on Tuesday, Twitter noted that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.”

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But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

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By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”

“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.

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Jack Dorsey Post Twitter Is Chasing His Crypto, Fintech Dream

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At a packed Miami conference in June, Jack Dorsey, mused in front of thousands of attendees about where his real passion lay: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin.”

On Monday, Dorsey made good on one part of that, announcing he would leave Twitter for the second time, handing the CEO position to a 10-year veteran at the firm. The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who is often described as an enigma with varied interests from meditation to yoga to fashion design, plans to pursue his passion which include focusing on running Square and doing more philanthropic work, according to a source familiar with his plan.

Well before the surprise news, Dorsey had laid the groundwork for his next chapter, seeding both companies with cryptocurrency-related projects.

Underlying Dorsey’s broader vision is the principle of “decentralisation,” or the idea that technology and finance should not be concentrated among a handful of gatekeepers, as it is now, but should, instead, be steered by the hands of the many, either people or entities.

The concept has played out at Square, which has built a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing Bitcoin’s popularity globally. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 44.52 lakh as of 12:50pm IST on December 1.

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Dorsey has been a longtime proponent of Bitcoin, and the appeal is that the cryptocurrency will allow for private and secure transactions with the value of Bitcoin unrelated to any government.

The idea has also underpinned new projects at Twitter, where Dorsey tapped a top lieutenant – and now the company’s new CEO Parag Agrawal – to oversee a team that is attempting to construct a decentralised social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.

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The project called Bluesky will aim to allow users control over the types of content they see online, removing the “burden” on companies like Twitter to enforce a global policy to fight abuse or misleading information, Dorsey said in 2019 when he announced Bluesky.

Bitcoin has also figured prominently at both of his companies. Square became one of the first public companies to own Bitcoin assets on its balance sheet, having invested $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) in the cryptocurrency.

In August, Square created a new business unit called TBD to focus on Bitcoin. The company is also planning to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, a Bitcoin mining system, as well as a decentralised Bitcoin exchange.

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Twitter allows users to tip their favourite content creators with Bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.

Analysts see the transition as a positive signal for Square, the fintech platform he co-founded in 2009. Square’s core Cash App, after a bull run in its share in 2020, has experienced slower growth in the most recent quarter. It is also trying to digest the $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,17,240 crore) acquisition of Buy Now Pay Later provider Afterpay, its largest acquisition ever.

But these ambitions will not pay off until years from now, analysts cautioned.

“The blockchain platform they’re trying to develop is great but also fraught with technical challenges and difficult to scale for consumers. I think he’ll focus more on Square and crypto will be part of that,” said Christopher Brendler, an analyst at DA Davidson.

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© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.

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