Twitter promises ‘healthier’ conversation with new political ad rules

By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 20 February 2019

Twitter is rolling out tougher political advertising regulations in Australia to provide greater transparency and a healthier public discourse ahead of the federal election.

Political parties, candidates, or groups registered with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) seeking to run ads must provide their name and address.

Organisations not registered with the AEC must provide their ABN, while individuals must present a government-issued ID.

Twitter added that it will continue to roll out the policies to other nations throughout the year.

In May 2018 the social platform launched its Political Campaigning Policy in the US which provided insight into how it defines political content and who is paying for political ads on its site.

Alongside this, it also rolled out the Ads Transparency Center, allowing people around the globe to view ads that have been displayed on Twitter, including details such as ad spend and demographic targeted.

The expansion of these policies across Australia, India and the EU starts on the 11 March.

“We continue to be committed to enforcing stricter policies for political advertisers and providing clear, transparent disclosure for ads on Twitter,” the company said in a statement.

“This is part of our overall goal to protect the health of the public conversation on our service and to provide meaningful context around all political entities who use our advertising products.”

Lax regulations around political advertising on digital platforms has been a long-running concern, particularly since Russian interference during the 2016 US election which primarily targeted Facebook.

In response to backlash that followed as a result, Facebook rolled out similar transparency policies, allowing people to see all political ads and who posted them on its platform.

As well as fighting ‘fake news’ by certifying who is advertising on the platforms, making all ads available to the public helps allay fears of micro-targeting, whereby different demographics are exposed to vastly different political messages.

“We strongly believe that meaningful transparency is the best path forward for all advertising products we offer, particularly those that are utilised in a political context,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

The NSW election is being held on the 23 March and while a date hasn’t been set for the federal election, it is expected to be held in May.

Other issues around political advertising have been raised during the ACCC inquiry into the impact of digital platforms on journalism.

Both commercial TV and radio have asked for the political advertising blackout rule to be lifted as it unfairly restricts them while digital platforms are free to run political ads.

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