Here’s Exactly How Twitter’s Political Ad Policy Will Work

It’s more complicated than we thought. And that could be a problem.

Will Oremus
Published in
5 min readNov 15, 2019


Photo by Tayler Smith. Prop Styling by Caroline Dorn

WWhen Twitter announced last month that it was planning to ban political advertising, many cheered. Here, it seemed, was a decisive action by a social media platform that put the public interest ahead of its own profit motive. The stand Twitter was taking, as outlined in a tweet thread by CEO Jack Dorsey, was the opposite of Facebook’s widely ridiculed policy of not only allowing political advertising, but declining to fact-check it, giving political actors free reign to spread targeted misinformation.

Then came the backlash. Twitter initially indicated that its policy would ban not only campaign ads, but issue ads, which it defined as advocacy pertaining to issues of legislative importance. Some critics argued that Twitter’s policy would benefit incumbents with large followings over political outsiders. Others pointed out that it would seem to allow corporations to promote their own interests, even if those had political ramifications, but prohibit nonprofits and advocacy groups from opposing them. (I was among those critics.) In particular, Twitter’s initial implication that the policy might prohibit ads about climate change but allow ads from oil companies struck many on the left, including Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, as deeply misguided.

Dorsey replied that those objections were premature, since Twitter had yet to announce the policy’s specifics. But people at the company were readily engaging with critics: The concern about climate change partially stemmed from a tweet by Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde replying to a question I had asked about how the company would decide what constitutes an issue ad.

On Friday, Twitter finally cleared things up by announcing its full policy information. It allows for considerably more nuance than the blanket ban many had anticipated. What remains to be seen now is if Twitter is actually equipped to consistently and…