Twitter has announced it’s expanding checks on political advertisers outside the U.S. to also cover Australia, India and all the member states of the European Union.
This means anyone wanting to run political ads on its platform in those regions will first need to go through its certification process to prove their identity and certify a local location via a verification letter process.
Enforcement of the policies will kick in in the three regions on March 11, Twitter said today in a blog post. “Political advertisers must apply now for certification and go through the every step of the process,” it warns.
The company’s ad guidelines, which were updated last year, are intended to make it harder for foreign entities to target elections by adding a requirement that political advertisers self-identify and certify they’re locally based.
A Twitter spokeswoman told us that advertiser identity requirements include providing a copy of a national ID, and for candidates and political parties specifically it requires an official copy of their registration and national election authority.
The company’s blog post does not explain why it’s selected the three international regions it has named for its first expansion of political checks outside the U.S. But they do all have elections upcoming in the next months.
Elections to the EU parliament take play in May, while India’s general elections are expected to take place in April and May. Australia is also due to hold a federal election by May 2019.
Twitter has been working on ad transparency since 2017, announcing the launch of a self-styled Advertising Transparency Center back in fall that year, following political scrutiny over the role social media platforms in spreading Kremlin-backed disinformation during the 2016 US presidential election. It went on to launch the center in June 2018.
The ad transparency hub lets anyone (not just Twitter users) see all ads running on its platform, including the content/creative; how long ads have been running; and any ads specifically targeted at them if they are a user. Ads can also be reported to Twitter as inappropriate via the Center.
Political/electioneering ads get a special section that also includes information on who’s paying for the ad, how much they’ve spent, impressions per tweet and demographic targeting.
Though initially the political transparency layer only covered U.S. ads.
Now, more than half a year on, Twitter is preparing to expand the some checks to its first international regions.
In countries where Twitter has checks on political ads, advertisers are also required to comply with a stricter set of rules for how they present their profiles to enforce a consistent look vis-a-vis how they present themselves online elsewhere — to try to prevent advertisers passing themselves off as something they’re not.
These consistency rules will apply to those wanting to run political ads in Europe, India and Australia from March. Twitter will also require political advertisers in the regions include a link to a website with valid contact info in their Twitter bio.
Those political advertisers with Twitter handles not related to their certified entity must also include a disclaimer in their bio stating the handle is “owned by” the certified entity name.
Twitter’s spokeswoman confirmed that this initial rollout of political ad checks in the three international markets will not cover issue-based ads. But she told us it intends to look into that later. She also noted that all ads on the platform have to go through its quality control process, including complying with its ad guidelines on inappropriate and hateful conduct.
The company’s move to expand political ad checks outside the U.S. is certainly welcome but it does highlight how piecemeal such policies remain with many more international regions with upcoming elections still lacking such checks — nor even a timeline to get them.
Including countries with very fragile democracies where political disinformation could be a hugely potent weapon.
Indonesia, which is a major market for Twitter, is due to hold a general election in April, for instance. The Philippines is also due to hold a general election in May. While Thailand has an election next month.
We asked Twitter whether it has any plans to roll out political ad checks in these three markets ahead of their key votes but the company declined to make a statement on why it had focused on the EU, Australia and India first.
A spokeswoman did tell us that it will be expanding the policy and enforcement globally in the future, though she would not provide a timeline for any further international expansion.