X will allow political ads on the platform ahead of US elections

30 Aug 2023

Image: © klikk/Stock.adobe.com

Reversing a ban on political ads, X said it’s expanding its safety and elections teams to prepare for greater content moderation during the US elections next year.

After a four-year hiatus, X (formerly Twitter) is set to allow paid political ads on its platform ahead of the US elections next year.

In a blogpost yesterday (29 August), X’s safety team said that the decision builds on the company’s “commitment to free expression” and the “right to accurate and safe political discourse” on the platform.

“Starting in the US, we’ll continue to apply specific policies to paid-for promoted political posts,” X wrote in the blog.

“This will include prohibiting the promotion of false or misleading content, including false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election, while seeking to preserve free and open political discourse.”

X will also launch what it calls a “global advertising transparency centre” so that people can review political ads and posts being promoted on X. “[This is] in addition to robust screening processes to ensure only eligible groups and campaigns are able to advertise,” X added.

Before Elon Musk took over the platform in October last year, X – then Twitter – had placed a ban on all political ads on the platform since 2019.

The ban was lifted four months into Musk’s leadership to allow “cause-based ads” in the US that raise awareness of issues such as voter registration. X said at the time that it planned to expand the types of political ads it would allow on the platform.

This came at a time when advertisers were cautiously avoiding investing in ads on Twitter because of its lack of a robust safety and content moderation team following mass layoffs.

Big players in the advertising industry such as GroupM, IPG and Omnicom Media Group advised clients not to buy ads on Twitter, labelling it as a “high-risk” endeavour. The apprehension was that their clients’ ads would appear next to inappropriate content.

Now, all eyes will be on X as political ads begin to resurface on the controversial platform with about half a billion users.

“During elections, X works to get in front of a range of tactics that people use to target the process. To do this we hire the right people, update our policies and evolve our product,” X wrote.

“We’re currently expanding our safety and elections teams to focus on combating manipulation, surfacing inauthentic accounts and closely monitoring the platform for emerging threats.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic