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Musk’s Twitter to lift ban on political ads ‘in coming weeks’

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Twitter plans to lift its restrictions on political ads, saying it would immediately allow issue-based paid content on the platform while political advertisements will return “in the coming weeks.”

The announcement comes as advertisers have fled the platform in droves after Elon Musk’s takeover last October, which was followed by a spike in hate speech and the reinstatement of several previously-banned right-wing accounts. The move also puts Twitter in alignment with several of the other major social media companies, such as Meta’s Facebook and Google’s YouTube, which both allow paid political content. One notable exception is ByteDance’s TikTok, which still has a ban on political advertising.

Lifting bans on advertisements from politicians and issue-based groups — which have been in place since 2019 — could potentially lead to more revenue for Twitter.

Reversal of course: Twitter Safety’s account announced the changes in a tweet Tuesday evening, saying, “We believe that cause-based advertising can facilitate public conversation around important topics. Today, we’re relaxing our ads policy for cause-based ads in the US.”

The company also announced plans to expand political advertising, but didn’t set a specific time frame beyond “weeks.”

It’s the latest in a series of Musk moves that have reversed policies that were put in place under former CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey. Dorsey banned all political ads in November 2019, saying in an October 2019 Twitter thread that paying for political reach “has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle.”

Additionally, Twitter’s former Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal tweeted that political advertising accounted for less than $3 million in the 2018 midterm cycle. Twitter’s total revenue was $3 billion in 2018.

Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on why it reversed the policies.

Issue-based ads are OK: Twitter reversed Dorsey’s restrictions on issue-based (or cause-based) ads — set in November 2019 — that banned the promotion of such ads and required advertiser certification for ads that “educate, raise awareness, and/or call for people to take action in connection with civic engagement, economic growth, environmental stewardship, or social equity causes.”

Musk has radically reshaped the platform since he bought it for $44 billion, laying off thousands of employees, overseeing a mass exodus of top executives and earning a sharp warning from the FTC.

Prior to Musk’s takeover, 90 percent of Twitter’s revenue came from advertising, but major advertisers have backed away following Musk’s free-wheeling approach to content moderation. Musk launched a revamped version of a $8 monthly Twitter Blue subscription service late last year, and lifting political and issue-based ad bans could be another source of revenue for the company.

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