Twitter bans political ads during pre-campaign period ahead of federal vote
OTTAWA — Twitter is creating a registry of all online political ads posted on its platform during this fall’s federal election campaign.
But the social media giant will ban political advertisements during the two-month run-up to the official campaign, known as the pre-writ period, that starts June 30.
Twitter Canada announced its ad-transparency policy Wednesday, several weeks after being called out by Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould for not committing to help ensure the integrity of the federal electoral process.
A new law requires platforms to keep a publicly accessible registry of political ads during both the pre-writ and writ periods, where Canadians can easily find out who is posting online ads.
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Facebook rolled out its own ad-transparency policy two weeks ago and, starting this week, is systematically detecting and reviewing ads on social issues, elections and politics in Canada, and requiring that they include a “paid for by” disclosure.
Google has decided to ban political ads on its platform altogether rather than try to set up a registry, which it argued would be technologically difficult to develop in the limited time available before the campaign.
Twitter is taking a middle road between the two other tech titans, banning ads during the pre-writ period as it fine-tunes its transparency tool in time for the start of the official campaign period in September.
Earlier this month, Gould scolded Twitter for failing say whether it would comply with the law on ad transparency and for not signing onto a “declaration of electoral integrity.” That commits Internet companies to work with the government to help prevent malicious foreign or domestic actors from using social media to peddle disinformation, exacerbate societal divisions and undermine trust in the electoral process. Facebook, Google and Microsoft have signed on.
But on Wednesday, Gould said in a tweet that she’s encouraged Twitter has now signed onto the declaration.
“We all have a role to play in safeguarding this fall’s election and to support healthy online political discourse,” she said.
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In a statement issued later by her office, Gould added: “We are reassured by Twitter’s announcement this morning that they will comply with recent changes to election legislation, specifically the online ad registry. We are one of the first countries to take steps to legislate social media platforms to act.
“The law protects our democratic processes and shines a bright light on election advertising, ensuring transparency and accountability. The more information Canadians have about what they see online, the better they can understand who is trying to influence their vote.”
Michele Austin, head of government and public policy at Twitter Canada, said the company has an “excellent working relationship” with Gould’s department, Elections Canada, the commissioner of elections and cybersecurity authorities.
© 2019 The Canadian Press