Twitter ad transparency: What you need to know about the tech company's latest move

 
Lynsey Barber
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Twitter's transparency mopve comes ahead of questioning by politicians (Source: Getty)

Twitter has announced major change billed as a bid to be more transparent about its advertising. Here's what you need to know.

What is Twitter doing?

The tech company is opening up what it's calling an Advertising Transparency Centre where everyone and anyone can see more information about any advert that appears on the social network.

It will include information such as how long they've been running, what creative is associated with it and what ads are targeted to you.

Read more: A Facebook news feed experiment is seriously freaking out publishers

When it comes to political adverts, there will be information on who has paid for the ad and the total amount that organisation has spent through their entire campaigning on Twitter, not just each ad. It will also include details of the exact targeting they use such as age, gender and location.

It is also tightening oversight of political ads and when it comes to what it describes as "issue-based" ads, that is, ads that are not political, but are based on political issues. It will work on defining such ads first, working with "peer companies, other industry leaders, policy makers, and ad partners to clearly define them quickly and integrate them into the new approach mentioned above".

Why is it interesting?

Twitter is one of several tech companies being investigated by US politicians over their hosting of advertising linked to Russia, raising concerns that they could have influenced last year's US election.

Executives from Twitter, Facebook and Google will next week face a grilling fom US members of congress about the matter.

What does it mean?

It's not just in the US where tech companies are being scrutinised either. UK politicians are asking their own questions of Facebook and what adverts run on the platform linked to

And there is also a wider issue of Twitter being used in campaigning, with researchers last week identifying a network of Twitter bots which popped up during last year's Brexit vote and the promptly disappeared.

Read more: Read: MPs letter to Zuckerberg demanding info on Russia Brexit meddling

The influence of social networks, the power they hold, and whether that should be monitored in the form of regulation is a growing issue, in terms of the Russia ads and beyond, from things like the rise of fake news to the hosting of illegal content. With great power comes great responsibility after all.

Twitter's efforts to self-regulate before they are forced to take ant any action are notable. The deeper politicians and other dig and the more information that emerges, the more of this sort of pre-emptive action we might see from Twitter and others.

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