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.
We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons…
— (@jack) October 30, 2019
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.
This is one of the key issues many miss about banning political ads on any platform. You can’t ban these ads without significantly inhibiting the ability of activists, labor groups, and organizers to make their cases too. https://t.co/YjIgKsVDyJ
— (@mosseri) November 5, 2019
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‘.
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.
- 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.
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.
Health Ministry Teams Up With Twitter to Respond to Queries Around COVID-19
The Union Health Ministry has teamed up with Twitter to launch a dedicated account to respond to Indian Twitter users’ queries related to COVID-19. The new account COVID India Seve using Twitter’s Twitter Seva platform, “a customised live query redressal service.” People can put their queries forward by tweeting to @CovidIndiaSeva to get a response from the authorities. The account describes itself as “Official @MoHFW_INDIA Handle for COVID-19 Response” and it was created in March. Twitter said that the service will enable the government to interact effectively with the public during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
People in India can tweet to the @CovidIndiaSeva to seek guidance regarding steps to take if COVID-19 symptoms occur, know more about access to healthcare services, measures implemented by the government, among many other topics. According to Twitter, people will get answers to only broader questions, meaning personal queries won’t be dealt with through the new service.
Tweeting about the launch, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan wrote, “Experts will share authoritative public health information reg #COVIDー19 swiftly at scale, helping to build a direct channel for communication with citizens. Post your queries!”
@CovidIndiaSeva has been responding to the questions from Twitter users. NDTV journalist Akhilesh Sharma asked, ”Crucial question in everyone’s mind is that whether we are testing enough? What about rapid antibody based blood tests esp for COVID inflicted areas?”
Answering the question, @CovidIndiaSeva replied, “At present, 204 government labs and 86 NABL accredited private laboratory chains are involved in testing. The no. of collection centers have also been enhanced to 16,000 centers across India. We have already tested 4,05,320 people.” It went on to add, “Government of India has issued advisory to start rapid antibody based blood test for COVID-19 for areas reporting clusters (containment zone) and in large migration gatherings/evacuees centers.”
Twitter India has also been working with various state governments in the country to make the COVID-19 response management better. “It has also supported and enabled the Govt of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh to set-up dedicated COVID-Response accounts. Govt. of Karnataka, Maharashtra,” it said in a statement.
Twitter Is Down for Some Users – You Are Not Alone
Twitter is down for many users across the globe. Reports are pouring from India, parts of Europe, Japan, as well as parts of the United States. We at Gadgets 360 are also facing issues when trying to access the micro-blogging platform, with some team members unable to the load the homepage, while others are unable to see their timelines or tweet. Twitter’s own support handle has yet to highlight the issue, though reports continue to flood in.
As seen on Down Detector, there have been hundreds of reports from across the globe, with most reports coming on for the Twitter website, with users of the Android app also reporting issues.
The Twitter status page says all systems are operational, as of a few seconds ago. As we mentioned, users are facing different problems, with some Gadgets 360 team members not affected at all, and others unable to tweet or load their timelines. The issue may be transient. To recall, the social network experienced a major outage earlier this month.
Are you facing issues with Twitter? Let us know in the comments below.
Twitter Said to Be Planning Bitcoin Payments as Tips on Its Platform
Twitter is considering a feature that would allow users to tip one another – in Bitcoins though.
The Information reports that the micro-blogging platform is working on implementing a new payment feature to let people send money to each other.
It is not yet clear whether the Twitter tipping feature would integrate with Jack Dorsey’s other company, Square, which is a financial services, merchant services aggregator, and mobile payment company based in San Francisco.
Dorsey has made absolutely no secret of his love of Bitcoin over the years.
NewsBTC has reported on the Twitter CEO opining that Bitcoin will one day be the currency of the internet and his company Square integrating cryptocurrency payments.
“Dorsey has been a major investor in the Bitcoin micropayments solution Lightning Network,” said the report.
Dorsey will move to Africa for three-six months this year to “define the future”.
“Sad to be leaving the continent for now. Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!). Not sure where yet, but I’ll be living here for 3-6 months mid-2020. Grateful I was able to experience a small part,” said the Twitter CEO.
Dorsey has also hired Bitcoin developers for his payments company.
He is an advocate of digital currency bitcoin but he also says it is “not functional as a currency”.