November 26, 2019

Where does social media now stand on political ads?


The Innovation team at Instinctif harness the best of the future to deliver market-leading ideas in the present. The team’s specialism spans digital strategy and marketing, data & analytics, and strategic brand. This fortnightly update shares top tips to help you foster creative and challenge the status quo and summarises the news that matters.

The update: political ads and online platforms

If you’ve been paying close attention to the news, you’ll know there has been a great deal of controversy around the use of online and social media ads in the political arena. Many online platforms, like Facebook, have come under increasing pressure to take action on ads that spread false information.

We dove deep into each of the key online platforms – looking at their current stance on political advertising, as we inch closer to the UK general election and the 2020 presidential election in the US:

  • In late October, Twitter revealed (via their CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey’s account) that they would be banning all political advertising from the 22nd November. Dorsey explained that Twitter believes the organic spread of political messages should not be “compromised by money”. He also says the threat of fake or manipulated videos, such as deep-fakes, is too high for them not to take action. Dorsey called for different ad regulation in the future that can ensure a level playing field.


  • Last week (20th November), Google announced political advertisers will no longer be able to target individuals based on their political affiliation. Under Google’s updated rules, political advertisers will be able to target voters in the form of search ads, YouTube ads and display ads, by location, gender, age and the content of websites they have visited. But they now cannot direct their ads using some specific audience attributes, like political affiliation or public voting records. This announcement was made in a blog post by Scott Spencer, Vice President of Product Management at Google Ads, who stated that this has been done in a move to help protect elections from foreign interference.


  • Off the back of Google’s announcement, there has been increasing speculation around what Facebook will do in regards to their ad policy. Mark Zuckerburg recently got himself into hot water by implying the company would continue to allow politicians to potentially spread misinformation in their adverts. The latest news around Facebook has been they are considering increasing the minimum number of people who can be targeted from 100 to a few thousand. The idea being that it would make ‘micro-targeting’ specific people much more difficult. Everyone is currently watching the tech giant to see what their next move will be…


  • Instagram targeting works through Facebook so some of the same issues apply. Instagram’s ad policies state, “When ads about social issues, elections or politics appear on Instagram, they’re required to include information about who paid for them. In Feed or Stories, an ad about social issues, elections or politics will say Paid for by below the photo or video, and you’ll see information listed about the sponsor of the ad.”


  • Last week, the CEO of Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, revealed Snapchat are going to review all advertising policies, including political advertising. He believes they can create a place for political ads, as Snapchat is a platform that is influential for young people who may be voting for the first time. When looking at Snapchat’s current political advertising policies, they state political content is counted as “ads about candidates or parties for public office, ballot measures or referendums, political action committees, and ads that urge people to vote or register to vote.” They also apply the policies to ads concerning issues/organisations that are subject to debate. Political ads on the platform must contain a “paid for by” message and comply to all applicable laws and regulations.

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