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A timely gesture from Twitter brings accountability to political advertising

It’s an irony that most social media users consider online commercials as a distraction, though advertisements are the primary revenue source for the leading social networking sites. However, such aversion can be justified in situations where netizens find it hard to distinguish between ads and the content they are looking for.

To the relief of millions of social media users, the major players in the sector have launched an intense campaign to draw a line between fact and fiction, thanks to the data breach scandal involving Facebook (FB) and UK-based Cambridge Analytica. Since the roots of the scandal can be traced back to the political ads published by Facebook during the presidential election two years ago, regulators are keeping a close watch on advertisers ahead of the mid-term polls to be held in November.

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Microblogging platform Twitter (TWTR) Thursday pitched in with a tool that helps users identify advertisements put up by political entities, while also verifying the source of the money spent on the campaign. According to the company, the newly launched Ads Transparency Center allows users to access all the transactions related to election campaign ads, including details of billing and the demographic aimed at by the advertisers.

Twitter launched a tool that helps users identify advertisements put up by political entities

Users can view the details of ad campaigns run by a particular Twitter handle, over a period of seven days, by simply searching for that user in the Ads Transparency Center. Interestingly, even those do not have a Twitter account will be able to access such information.

Earlier this month, Twitter had revised its advertisement policy to ensure transparency while using its platform for political promotion, following the footsteps of Facebook which took a similar initiative recently by launching a searchable archive for political ads. Going forward, Facebook plans to add the View Ads tab to pages and to make listings of all active advertising campaigns, both political and non-political, visible to users.

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While the purview of the new Twitter policy is limited to federal poll campaigns, it will be extended to advertisements of all political events globally. By engaging users in the process, the companies expect to curb potential misuse of their platforms by unscrupulous advertisers.

Twitter shares dropped slightly after opening Thursday’s session higher but recovered as trading progressed before closing up 2%.

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