May 30, 2018 By Zak Mehan
As social media companies continue to grapple with how to regulate political ads in light of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Twitter has announced how they plan to handle content going forward. The new rules, which are slated to launch this summer, have been labeled the “Political Campaigning Policy” by the company.
Going forward, advertisers pushing political content will be required to certify through Twitter, and foreign nationals are expressly prohibited from targeting ads. In addition to new requirements surrounding the look of the page (profile and header photos are now a requirement), users must also have a valid website. Additionally, Twitter will begin to identify candidates who have qualified for the general election ballot with a badge (that is, if the candidate consents).
These updated rules are in line with the guidelines outlined in the Honest Ads Act, which the company announced it planned to conform to back in April, but Twitter also has plans to launch their “Ads Transparency Center” this summer, which will go even further to break down spending and targeting.
While these new rules clearly outline what steps campaigns need to take, there’s been less clarity surrounding what this means for organizations that may be pushing out content that is political in nature but not tied to a specific candidate. This becomes even more important when you consider that many of the Russian ads run in 2016 had to do with generally sowing discord as opposed to advocating for a specific candidate.
The company has acknowledged that they’re still working to develop a policy on issues ads and hot-button topics and that these guidelines will “will fall under a separate upcoming policy.” Companies and organizations will want to keep a close watch on how Twitter irons out its policy on these stickier subjects, which could have a profound effect on how corporates engage on policy issues that impact their business.
Google, which brought all of its payments efforts under one umbrella with Google Pay earlier this year, is pushing further into the payments world by integrating with PayPal. The new payment experience means that once users add their PayPal account to one of Google’s services (such as Gmail, YouTube and the Google Stores) their information will be connected to the rest of Google’s apps.
This move will save users time spent logging in, but more importantly, keeps them from leaving Google services. The integration is also a win for PayPal, which will likely see a surge in transaction revenues. Google’s move is the latest in a series of moves by digital companies focused on keeping users engaged and from leaving the platform (earlier this year, Snapchat launched a new shopping feature to aimed at keeping users in-app).
Notably, this kind of seamless digital ecosystem is already thriving in China where, much to the chagrin of U.S. banks, Alipay and WeChat dominate the online payments scene. As brands continue to battle for attention in a saturated digital landscape, integration that keeps users from migrating from platform to platform will likely become more and more commonplace.
Earlier this year, we discussed the potential ramifications of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University’s lawsuit against Donald Trump for blocking users on Twitter. As you may remember, much of the conversation at the time was focused on defining social media more generally – Is it a convention? A speech? Maybe even a private venue?
Last week, we got closer to a definition when Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that Trump’s actions did indeed violate the U.S. Constitution. In her decision, Buchwald defined Twitter as a “designated public forum,” and noted that neither the President nor other public officials could block users for expressing differing political views. As some have pointed out, this definition could land Twitter in a sticky situation when it comes to First Amendment rights.
It’s become increasingly clear that social media has become, for better and sometimes for worse, a critical part of the democratic process over the past few years. While corporations have begun grappling with how to self-regulate in the wake of the 2016 election, the government and legal system will likely continue to contend with these issues for some time to come.
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Someone better tell B.o.B. to stay away from Google Translate…