X, the social media company formerly known as Twitter, is planning to scrap its ban on political advertising in the U.S.
The move to allow ads from political parties and candidates comes as part of the company’s preparations for the 2024 presidential election, with the company’s safety team saying that the new policy represents a commitment to free speech.
“During elections, X works to get in front of a range of tactics that people use to target the process. To do this we hire the right people, update our policies and evolve our product,” says the team in a statement.
“Starting in the U.S., we’ll continue to apply specific policies to paid-for promoted political posts. This will include prohibiting the promotion of false or misleading content, including false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election, while seeking to preserve free and open political discourse.”
Political advertising was banned on the platform back in 2019 by then-CEO Jack Dorsey.
“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions,” he tweeted at the time.
In January, though, the platform started accepting political ads once again, so long as they were “cause-based” ads advocating for, for instance, climate awareness or voter registration.
This latest move will, CEO Elon Musk presumably hopes, help to reverse the decline in the company’s ad revenues, which have plummeted since he took over the company. And in attempt to reassure advertisers that their ads won’t be appearing next to problematic content, X is promising to expand its safety and elections teams—from which he previously laid of thousands of staff.
It says it will implement robust screening processes to ensure only eligible groups and campaigns are able to advertise, and create an ad transparency center allowing anyone to review the political posts that are being promoted.
Community Notes will continue to grow, with the company claiming that people are on average 30% less likely to agree with the substance of a post after reading a Community Note about it, and also less likely to reshare it.
“X shouldn’t determine the truthfulness of disputed information; rather, we should empower our users to express their opinions and openly debate during elections, in line with our commitment to protecting freedom of expression,” says the safety team.
Earlier this year, Stanford researchers found that the number of clicks on misinformation websites fell between the run-ups to the 2016 and 2020 elections, an encouraging sign.
However, since then, there have been serious concerns about the reliability of Twitter, particularly since Donald Trump, suspended after the January 6 riot, was welcomed back onto the site last November.
His first post, indeed, made just last week and showing his Fulton County mug shot, was captioned “Election interference”—hardly an encouraging sign.