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Twitter Tightens Bans on Political Ads and Causes Ahead of 2020 US Election

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Twitter on Friday said its political advertising ban will include references to political candidates or legislation, and it will not allow ads that advocate for a certain outcome on social and political causes.

The popular social media site, which first announced its political ads ban last month, had not previously provided details on the new policy. On Friday, it said it will define political content as anything that references “a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive, or judicial outcome.”

Twitter said it will use a combination of automated technology and human teams to enforce the new ad policies.

The move comes as campaigns for the November 2020 presidential election heat up amid growing pressure on social media companies to stop accepting ads that spread false information and could sway elections.

“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said in announcing the ban.

Rival Facebook, saying it did not want to stifle political speech, has refused calls from some politicians and others to follow Twitter’s lead, and said it would not vet political ads for misleading claims on its site.

The ban is expected to take effect on November 22.

Brad Parscale, campaign manager for US President Donald Trump’s re-election bid, in a statement called the move, “yet another attempt to silence conservatives, since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known.”

Bill Russo, deputy communications director for former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, said in a statement that he appreciates Twitter will not allow “disproven smears” to appear in ads, but said social media companies had more work to do to ensure their sites are not rife with disinformation.

“We look forward to seeing how the policy works in practice and intend to hold Twitter to its word,” he said.

Twitter will allow companies and advocacy groups to run ads that promote awareness and discussion about social causes, such as environmental protection. But they will not be allowed to push for a political or legislative change, especially if they are advocating for something that benefits their business, Del Harvey, vice president of trust and safety, said in a conference call on Friday.

Under the new policy for example, Sierra Club could still promote their causes, but they would not be able to single out politicians they support or target those they would like to see defeated in elections, or lobby for political outcomes.

Similarly, a group could run a gun violence awareness ad but could not call for a ban on assault weapons used in mass shootings as a ban implies legislation, Twitter said.

Ads intended to promote awareness about a cause would be allowed to target users at the state level or higher, but not by zip-code. And those advertisers will not be able to target people based on their political leanings, Twitter said.

Roy Temple, a partner at digital media consultancy GPS Impact who has worked with political campaigns, called the move “a gigantic cop-out” by Twitter’s CEO that does not involve the loss of much revenue, and he questioned the difficulty of implementing the complicated policy.

“I wouldn’t want to be the Twitter employee who has to make these calls and defend them,” Temple said. “Universal healthcare is a cause, but is there a bill related to that? Are you talking about the bill or the cause? How is that determined?”

Harvey said on Friday the new policies were not expected to change Twitter’s fourth-quarter revenue forecast. Political ad spend for the 2018 US midterm elections on Twitter was less than $3 million, the company reported.

Critics have said the ban would punish lesser-known candidates taking on well-funded incumbents in local elections.

If Facebook and Google – much larger players in digital advertising – were to adopt similar policies it would be “catastrophic” to down-ballot candidates who lack name recognition, said Eric Wilson, a political strategist based in Washington DC.

“If Facebook considers eliminating things like microtargeting, that’s when we would panic,” Wilson said. He said the platform has been the best vehicle for raising grassroots support, and a similar ban could hurt candidates that do not accept large donations from corporations and political action committees (PACs).

Twitter said it sought to make its new rules as clear as possible. But other major tech companies, including Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google, have had widely publicized struggles to moderate the vast amount of content uploaded to their sites.

News publishers that meet certain criteria will continue to be able to run ads on Twitter that reference political content, but they cannot advocate for or against a political topic.

© Thomson Reuters 2019

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NEWS

Health Ministry Teams Up With Twitter to Respond to Queries Around COVID-19

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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.

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Twitter Is Down for Some Users – You Are Not Alone

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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.

AUTHOR
Abhinav Lal You’ll most likely find Abhinav editing news stories, humouring his possibly unhealthy interest in playing Dota 2, and defending where his beliefs lie in the meritocracy vs. democracy debate. A science fiction and fantasy reader, he is sufficiently starry-eyed to look forward to a utopian future.

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TWITTER

Twitter Said to Be Planning Bitcoin Payments as Tips on Its Platform

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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”.

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