Twitter sets out plans for banning political ads

Twitter Inc. on Friday laid out its plan for banning political ads and those that advocate for a certain outcome on social and political causes. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 November 2019

Twitter sets out plans for banning political ads

  • Rival Facebook Inc, saying it did not want to stifle political speech, has steadfastly refused calls from some politicians and others to follow Twitter’s lead
  • Twitter said it will use a combination of automated technology and human teams to enforce the new ad policies

WASHINGTON: Twitter Inc. on Friday laid out its plan for banning political ads just as campaigns for the 2020 US presidential election heat up, and for banning ads that advocate for a certain outcome on social and political causes.
Twitter said last month that it would ban political advertising, as social media companies have faced growing calls to stop accepting ads that spread false information and could sway elections.
Twitter said it will define political content under its policy as anything that references “a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive, or judicial outcome.”
“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said in announcing the ban.
Rival Facebook Inc, saying it did not want to stifle political speech, has steadfastly refused calls from some politicians and others to follow Twitter’s lead, and said it would not vet political ads for misleading claims on its site.
The ban, which is expected to take effect on Nov. 22 and includes ads from political candidates, political parties or government officials themselves, was initially derided by US President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
The popular social media platform will allow companies and advocacy groups to run ads that promote awareness and discussion about social causes, such as environmental protection. But they will not be allowed to push for a certain political or legislative change on the issue, especially if they are advocating for something that benefits their business, Del Harvey, vice president of trust and safety, said in a conference call on Friday.
Under the new policy for example, Sierra Club or gun rights advocates could still promote their causes, but they would not be able to single out politicians they support or target those they would like to see defeated in elections, or lobby for political outcomes.
Advertisers who wish to run ads that promote awareness about a cause will be able to target users at the state level or higher, but not by their zip-code. And those advertisers will not be able to target people based on their political leanings, Twitter said.
Twitter said it will use a combination of automated technology and human teams to enforce the new ad policies.
It said it sought to make the new rules as clear as possible. But other major tech companies, including Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google, have had widely publicized struggles to moderate the vast amount of content uploaded to their sites.
News publishers that meet certain criteria will continue to be able to run ads on Twitter that reference political content, but they cannot advocate for or against a political topic.


Rappler journalist Ressa launches defense in Philippine libel case

Updated 16 December 2019

Rappler journalist Ressa launches defense in Philippine libel case

  • Rappler has written extensively and often critically on President Rodrigo Duterte’s policies
  • Maria Ressa, named a Time Person of the Year in 2018 for her journalism, did not testify in court

MANILA: Philippine journalist Maria Ressa said Monday she would not be silenced as she launched her defense against a libel charge that press advocates call an attempt to curb her news site’s critical coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Her site Rappler has written extensively and often critically on Duterte’s policies, including his deadly drugs war that rights groups say may amount to crimes against humanity.
“I can go to jail for 12 years for this (case), that is the maximum sentence,” she told reporters outside court after the hearing, noting government investigators had initially dismissed the case.
“From track record you can see the political goals to shut Rappler up ... but we haven’t shut up yet,” said Ressa, who is free on bail.
Besides the libel case, Ressa and Rappler have been hit with a string of criminal charges in the span of roughly a year, prompting allegations that authorities are targeting her and her team for their work.
Ressa, named a Time Person of the Year in 2018 for her journalism, did not testify in court.
The case centers on a Rappler report from 2012 about a businessman’s alleged ties to a then-judge of the nation’s top court.
Government investigators initially dismissed the businessman’s 2017 complaint about the article, but state prosecutors later decided to file charges.
The legal underpinning of the charge is a controversial “cybercrime law” aimed at online offenses ranging from hacking and Internet fraud to child pornography.
In court on Monday, Ressa’s defense team highlighted investigators’ initial decision not to pursue the case, and her insulation from Rappler’s daily news decisions.
“As an executive editor, she does not really edit,” Chay Hofilena, a Rappler investigative journalist, told the court.
The government has repeatedly said the case has nothing to do with politics, adding that no one is above the law.
However, Duterte has in speeches lashed out at Rappler and other critical media outfits, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper and broadcaster ABS-CBN.
He threatened to go after their owners over alleged unpaid taxes or block the network’s franchise renewal application.
Rights monitor Reporters Without Borders ranked the Philippines at 134 out of 178 countries on its annual “World Press Freedom” index this year, when at least three journalists were killed “most likely by agents working for local politicians.”