Twitter Restricts State-Sponsored Media Ads

Policy updated in response to Chinese disinformation campaign

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August 19, 2019

Twitter will no longer support advertisements created by state-sponsored media entities, the social media company announced in a blog post on Monday.

"Going forward, we will not accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities," Twitter stated. "Any affected accounts will be free to continue to use Twitter to engage in public conversation, just not our advertising products. This is a global approach and will be enforced across our entire business."

The blog post explained Twitter made this decision because the company wants to provide a space online where users can participate in open conversations, without undue influence from government-controlled entities.

"We believe that there is a difference between engaging in conversation with accounts you choose to follow and the content you see from advertisers in your Twitter experience which may be from accounts you're not currently following," Twitter wrote. "We have policies for both but we have higher standards for our advertisers."

Twitter noted, however, that it will not restrict advertising from tax-payer funded media outlets, which include broadcasters such as NPR and PBS. The company stated that one of its primary concerns in implementing the policy is allowing for freedom of the press.

"We will be making policy determinations on the basis of critical issues of media freedom and independence, such as control of editorial content, financial ownership, influence or interference over broadcasters, editors, and journalists, direct and indirect exertion of political pressure, and/or control over the production and distribution process," the blog post stated. "This policy will not apply to entities that are solely dedicated to entertainment, sports, and travel content. However, if the content is mixed with news, it will be prohibited."

Twitter updated its policy the same day the company revealed in a separate blog post that the Chinese government had been backing a disinformation campaign on the site, using Twitter accounts to derail the anti-communism demonstrations in Hong Kong.

"Covert, manipulative behaviors have no place on our service—they violate the fundamental principles on which our company is built," Twitter stated before updating its policies to prevent a similar state-sponsored campaign.