- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Twitter will begin labeling political advertisements as Congress moves to investigate Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election by buying online political ads.

The company will launch a “transparency center,” which will show all ads currently running on Twitter, political or otherwise, and how long the ads have been running. It will also include a database to show users which ads have been targeted toward them and the criteria used to personalize the spots, including the user’s age, sex and geography.

Twitter said the transparency center will begin operations in the coming weeks.

Political ads will include additional facts, including information about other ads in that campaign currently running or that have run. The social media giant will show who funded this specific ad, how much money was spent on it and how much the sponsor spent on all Twitter ads.

Twitter, which announced the policy in a blog post Tuesday, will also include a visual political ad indicator such as a purple dot noting that the tweet was being promoted by a political account.

The company said it uses the Federal Election Commission’s definition of an electioneering political ad. That means the ad refers to a clearly identified candidate for elected office and publicly distributed within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election.

“We are committed to stricter policies and transparency around issue-based ads,” Twitter said in the post. “There is currently no clear industry definition for issue-based ads, but we will work with our peers, other industry leaders, policy makers and ad partners to clearly define them quickly and integrate them into the new approach mentioned above.”

Twitter’s new transparency rules come ahead of testimony by Sam Edgett, the company’s acting general counsel, before the House and Senate intelligence committees on Nov. 1 at hearings that also will include testimony from attorneys for Google and Facebook.

The internet companies are expected to face questions about ads linked to Russia and purchased to sow chaos during the 2016 presidential election. Congress is also expected to grill the companies about the use of their platforms to spread fake news and demand to know the steps being taken to prevent it from happening again.

Last week, Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, and Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat, introduced legislation to increase digital ad transparency.

The bill, called “The Honest Ads Act,” would force digital platforms with 50 million or more monthly unique visitors to follow the same political ad regulations as television and radio outlets.

Among the bill’s provisions is a requirement that internet companies maintain a public database of all communications purchased by a group if they spend more than $500.

Mr. Warner called Twitter’s announcement “a good first step.”

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