Twitter changes policy on ads

According to NPR, Twitter has announced it will be more transparent about who pays for its ads.

The social media giant had been facing Congressional scrutiny over ads that were purchased during the 2016 U.S. election. Members of Congress have alleged companies like Twitter and Facebook did not do enough to prevent Russian political operatives from abusing their platforms.

Many technology experts believe Twitter, Google, and Facebook are trying to institute their own policies because they fear being subject to stricter regulation. For many years, Congress was happy to allow Silicon Valley to regulate itself. That is no longer the case.

Twitter said it has created a “Transparency Center” that will “offer everyone visibility into who is advertising on Twitter, details behind those ads.” Twitter users will be able to leave comments and feedback.

In 2016, Russian groups used a combination of secretive methods, like snooping and hacking, and open methods, like ads and fake user accounts, to influence the election.

Twitter has admitted it sold $275,000 of ads to RT, the state-supported news agency in Russia. Russian agents also created user profiles to kick up controversy. Some profiles were automated, while others were run by people working for troll farms.

Twitter has already said it cannot prevent all forms of abuse when it comes to user accounts. One of the reasons the company is focusing on making its ads more transparent is because it has more authority to regulate ads.

People will now be able to investigate all ads running on the platform. They will be able to find out who paid for the ads, how much they paid, and who, if anyone, the ads target.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called Twitter’s policy “a good first step.” Warner has been extremely critical of the way social media companies handled themselves during the election. He has introduced legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), that requires social media ads to satisfy the same transparency requirements as television and radio ads.

Warner also said that, despite Twitter’s overtures, his bill remained “entirely necessary.”

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