Twitter says it will comply with Honest Ads Act to combat Russia social media meddling

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Twitter today pledged to support a proposed Senate bill that would require technology platforms that sell advertising space to disclose the source of and amount of money paid for political ads. Called the Honest Ads Act, the bipartisan bill was first introduced back in October by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). The regulation of online political advertisements is one of the lasting, material effects of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, in which thousands of fake Kremlin-linked accounts were used to plant propaganda, sow distrust, and stir up heated debates on divisive political issues among the American populace primarily through social media.

Twitter is following in the footsteps of Facebook, which said last week that it would make critical changes to its political ad policies amid the ongoing Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal to reduce misinformation and prevent bad actors from co-opting its platform. Those changes, in compliance with the Honest Ads Act, include requiring advertisers targeting Facebook users over hot-button political issues like gun control to verify their identity and location. Ads will also be subject to a “political ad” label. A mix of human moderators and artificial intelligence-powered algorithms will scan the site to flag ads that require the label. Sens. Klobuchar and Warner called on Google and Twitter to commit to the Honest Ads Act just yesterday in the wake of Facebook’s announcement.

Twitter is pleased to support the Honest Ads Act. Back in the fall we indicated we supported proposals to increase transparency in political ads.

— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) April 10, 2018

As part of its transparency efforts, Twitter says it’s launched a new platform called the Ads Transparency Center, or ATC, that will “go beyond the requirements of the Honest Ads Act and eventually provide increased transparency to all advertisements on Twitter.” Twitter says the platform will increase transparency for political and so-called issue ads, which target specific topics like immigration and gun control, by providing even more information on the origin of an ad that is required by the Honest Ads Act.

“We have a dedicated team that is fully resourced to implementing the ATC and are committed to launching it this summer,” the company states. “Twitter is moving forward on our commitment to providing transparency for online ads. We believe the Honest Ads Act provides an appropriate framework for such ads and look forward to working with bill sponsors and others to continue to refine and advance this important proposal.”

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