Thursday, November 21, 2019

This week, Google restricts political targeting, political parties pretending to be fact-checkers, and Twitter's ad ban goes live.
In the News
Google Restricts Political Targeting
Advertisers will no longer be able to target users based on political affiliation or public voter records
Under the proposed changes, the only targeting allowed for political ads will be age, gender, and zip code. The changes will debut in the United Kingdom ahead of its upcoming General Election before being rolled out worldwide in January. ( Google issues harsh new restrictions on political ad targeting, the Verge

Google’s response to political ads pressure is markedly different than Twitter’s announcement last month. Rather than banning content, Google is restricting how it can be targeted. The change will have an outsized impact on candidates and campaigns that are trying to reach users who are not naturally clustered into ZIP codes and age brackets. For example, a Republican voter audience may be easier and cheaper to contact using age and geographic filters than a Democrat audience which may be clustered in cities and include age groups with lower voter turnout rates.
Conservatives in the UK use a verified Twitter profile to mimic a third-party fact-checker 
During the leaders debate ahead of the UK general election, Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party changed their official communications profile from “CCHQPress” to “factcheckUK” with new branding. The change presented a misleading appearance of a Twitter verified third-party delivering Conservative talking points. The move provoked condemnation from other parties, the public, and Twitter itself. ( Boris Johnson's Conservatives Rebranded a Party Twitter Account as 'factcheckUK.' Twitter Wasn't Happy, Time

So, campaign or a “dystopian” future (as alleged by the E.U.’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt)? The Conservatives were clearly looking to take advantage of the appearance of authority granted by a large following and a blue checkmark. The move was just the latest in a growing trend of parties, PACs, outside groups, and candidates to taking advantage of the appearance of authority online (for example, we wrote about the recent string of mock-local websites supporting conservatives in the US). However, the response in the UK indicated that calling attention to attempts at disinformation, particularly from an official party account, can provoke a backlash. Hundreds of Twitter users also changed their profiles to “factcheckUK” to criticize the Conservatives and fact-check the phony fact-checker in real time. 
Update: It’s Official
Twitter political ads ban goes live tomorrow, but company catches criticism for the final text
The platform confirmed that it will only remove “content that references a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive, or judicial outcome.” The news provoked some backlash, with outlets like Salon proclaiming, “Few are impressed with Twitter's so-called political ad ban.” ( Twitter is walking into a minefield with its political ads ban, Vox

As GSGer Lauren Amaio Soule told Ad Age this week, issue advocacy is “a less-definitive area” much harder to regulate than mentions of candidates and bills. While the eventual policy may be less severe than some expected, it will also likely be easier to enforce. We will continue to track the rollout of the new policy, with particular focus on the implications for advocacy campaigns. 
From GSG
Business and Politics After the Bans 
How does a move towards banning political content impact corporations taking political positions?
GSG's Luke Partridge digs further into some of the issues surrounding Twitter’s ads ban and issue advocacy in an op-ed for Media Post. ( Keep the Politics in Corporate ads, Media Post
This week's Impressions was compiled by Luke Partridge .

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