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Twitter allows US political candidates and parties to advertise in policy switch

The social media company formerly known as Twitter said Tuesday it would now allow political advertising in the US from candidates and political parties, reversing previous policies and raising concerns over misinformation and hate speech ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Before billionaire Elon Musk acquired the company, now called X, in October 2022, Twitter had banned all political ads globally since 2019. In January, the platform lifted the ban and began allowing “cause-based ads” in the US that raise awareness of issues such as voter registration, stating that it planned to expand the types of political ads it would allow on the platform.

The move to allow all political ads in the US could help X grow its revenue at a time when many advertisers have fled or reduced spending on the platform for fear of appearing next to inappropriate content. It also comes as Musk has attempted to position X as a “town square” for elections, hosting Ron DeSantis’s campaign announcement in May.

In a blog post on Tuesday, X said it would grow its teams to combat content manipulation and “emerging threats”.

The company said it would create a global advertising transparency center, which would let users see what political ads were being promoted on X, and added it would continue to prohibit political ads that spread false information or seek to undermine public confidence in an election. This is in keeping with the company’s goal of “seeking to preserve free and open political discourse”, the blog post said.

Since Musk’s acquisition, X has faced questions about its readiness for the US presidential election after laying off thousands of employees, including those who had worked on the trust and safety team.

The platform, like other social media companies, has long been criticized by researchers and lawmakers for not doing enough to prevent misleading or false content during major elections.

Those criticisms intensified surrounding the 6 January 2021 events, in which former president Donald Trump used Twitter extensively to rile up his supporters, who ultimately stormed the US capitol. Trump was removed from the platform after the incident, but Musk unilaterally lifted the ban in November 2022.

Despite the reactivation of his account, Trump remained silent on Twitter until last week, when he shared a picture of his mugshot after surrendering at a Georgia county jail on racketeering and conspiracy charges for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

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His official return has sparked concern from a number of misinformation experts, and civil rights advocates had previously warned that Trump’s return, accompanied by a loosening of content moderation policies, would “open the floodgates of disinformation” and abuse.

Twitter, now called X, did not respond to request for comment.

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