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Does Twitter’s New Ban on Political Advertising Affect Nonprofits?

Zach Grimshaw

Associate Digital Strategist, Forum One

Twitter has just announced that it will ban political advertising on the platform starting November 22nd, 2019. While the ban is focused on political campaign advertising, its implications have the potential to go beyond election marketing and into nonprofit and issue-based outreach as well.

In a series of tweets on October 30th, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that the platform will stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. According to Dorsey, “political message reach should be earned, not bought,” and, “internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse.”

While Twitter has made it clear that the focus of the ban is for political campaigns, and that candidates will no longer be welcome to advertise on the platform, many nonprofits are already wondering if and how the ban on political advertising might affect their own advertising efforts on Twitter. 

From political ads to issue ads

In Dorsey’s tweets announcing the change to Twitter’s ad policy, he also mentions that they will ban issue ads since, “issue ads present a way to circumvent” the ban on campaign and candidate ads. As of now, this most likely means that if you are certified on Twitter as an Issue Advertiser, and are advertising through an issue ads account, then your ads will indeed stop running on November 22nd. This decision may impact well-intentioned, and well-known cause-focused organizations, thus hindering awareness efforts of some key causes active on Twitter. Non-political, issue-based organizations include advocacy or philanthropic groups, such as those fighting for environmental regulations, immigration or healthcare rights.

Twitter’s legal, policy, and trust and safety lead, Vijaya Gadde, said this week that the company’s current definition of issue ads includes ads that refer to an election or a candidate or, “advocate for or against legislative issues of national importance (such as: climate change, healthcare, immigration, national security, taxes).” Gadde later added that abortion-related ads are also included in this definition. Based on this, there is currently only one exception mentioned so far which is voter registration advocacy, although Gadde and Dorsey said Twitter is still working through the details and will provide more details on the final definition and, “a few well-defined exceptions.”

Does this ban affect my organization?

So, will the ban affect cause-related nonprofit marketing and advertising on Twitter? The answer for now is: not necessarily. Advocating for issues such as clean water and ending childhood hunger is likely still safe under Twitter’s new decision because they aren’t heavily-partisan or current legislative issues at the moment. But as social issues often become politicized, Twitter’s list of “legislative issues of national importance” may grow. 

We will have to wait until Twitter releases its full advertising policy on November 15th to have a clearer view of how the platform defines an “issue” going forward. Stay tuned as we continue to watch and report on this topic closely to better understand exactly what this means for issue-based advertising. 

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Written By

Zach Grimshaw

Associate Digital Strategist, Forum One