August 30, 2018

Starting next month, anyone who buys political advertisements on Twitter must follow a certification process — except for news publications.

Unlike Facebook, which has been thoroughly criticized for making publishers register to promote ads that touch on political candidates or issues that are still marked as paid political content, Twitter created an exemption for journalism in its new rules, which the company announced on Thursday. But news organizations will still have to work for it.

“We don’t believe that news organizations running ads on Twitter that report on these issues, rather than advocate for or against them, should be subject to this policy,” Twitter wrote in a blog post.

These rule changes, which follow others made earlier this year, are an attempt to provide users with more transparency into ads that “seek to influence people’s stance on issues that may influence election outcomes.”

The rules affect ads that “refer to an election or clearly identified candidate” or “advocate for legislative issues of national importance.” Twitter defines these issues as those that touch on abortion, civil rights, climate change, guns, healthcare, immigration, national security, social security, taxes and trade.

To run ads about these topics, advertisers must apply for certification and complete a process to verify their identity and location within the U.S. Once approved, the ads will appear in Twitter’s Ads Transparency Center with public details about billing information, ad spend and targeting information.

News organizations don’t have to follow this certification process, but they aren’t automatically exempt. Instead, they must file and meet a set of criteria to be considered. The criteria include:

  • The publication’s website must have a minimum of 200,000 monthly unique visitors in the U.S.
  • Contact information is available online.
  • ‘About’ information is available online.
  • Dedicated reporter/editorial staff information is available online.
  • The publication has a searchable archive available online.
  • The publication is not primarily a user-generated or aggregated content platform.
  • The publication is not dedicated to advocating on a single issue.

A spokesperson told Poynter that Twitter created a wide net to qualify as many news organizations as possible, but needed to create a pageview threshold to limit the exemption to “reputable” news organizations. The rule against organizations that advocate single issues was created to keep out media that are “partly public relations” or that masquerade as news to push special interests. Most other criteria are news standards.

These rules do not exempt publishers that approach news from a viewpoint. Theoretically, sites like Breitbart News or Occupy Democrats could be exempted.

News organizations have until Sept. 30 to file for an exemption. The policy is open to change during that time, a Twitter spokesperson said, and if a large group of news organizations doesn’t meet certain criteria they are open to being flexible. Twitter’s goal is to get as many “legitimate” news organizations exempted as possible, the spokesperson said.

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Ren LaForme is the Managing Editor of He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
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