Twitter and Facebook have changed their political advertising policies. What does this mean for strategic public relations?


As professionals in an industry that serves as the ethical pulse of the organizations we work for, we welcome the changes from social media sites to limit unethical advertising and remove false or misleading stories. That said, new advertising policies recently adopted at Facebook and Twitter are affecting how we place social media for our clients.  

 While some of the changes caused management migraines for our social media team, they also serve as a reminder to continue to make strategic assessments of how best to deploy social channel content.  

Twitter “bans” political advertising

On Oct. 30, 2019, Twitter announced that it was banning all political ads based on the belief that political message reach should be earned, not bought. Updates to Twitter’s political advertising policy include: 

 “We define political content as content that references a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive, or judicial outcome. 

 “Ads that contain references to political content, including appeals for votes, solicitations of financial support, and advocacy for or against any of the above-listed types of political content, are prohibited under this policy.” 

 This ban, which took effect Nov. 22, prohibits many of our clients from paying for advertisements to help advance policies that will make Michigan a better place, including campaigns previously run around large events and conferences like the State of the State address or Mackinac Policy Conference. Organic content will become increasingly important with the new changes.  

 Facebook responds with additional verification requirements

Amidst this change, all eyes turned to Mark Zuckerberg who has been in the hot seat for Facebook’s data privacy and advertising policies since 2018. Facebook recently responded by unveiling additional political advertising verification requirements, but didn’t have adequate procedures or support in place for a smooth transition.  

 All political advertising without an updated and approved verification disclaimer was paused on Nov. 7, affecting agencies and organizations across the nation. The new rules continue to be works-in-progress at Facebook, and temporarily affected multiple Martin Waymire clients and campaigns. As Facebook owns Instagram, the new policies apply to that channel as well. Facebook remains under harsh criticism, because once through the new verification process, advertisers can still place ads with false information, as displayed by a post with false clickbait to a petition calling for the breakup of large tech companies.  

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign demonstrated the ease of spreading false political information by running a Facebook ad that falsely claimed Mark Zuckerberg endorsed President Trump for re-election. 

Implications of this change have been widespread for our clients, particularly because the policies around the new disclaimer process are quite broad. According to Facebook, disclaimers are required for, “ads about U.S. social issues, legislation, elections (including “get out the vote” campaigns), political figures, or political parties…” The exact criteria for whether ads are approved without a disclaimer remains unclear and at times inconsistent, and can impact clients that work on broad issues like energy, health care and college enrollment.  

Martin Waymire navigates these changes with multifaceted public relations strategies 

As these changes were implemented, Martin Waymire hit the ground running to meet the Facebook deadline, sometimes going through the process multiple times to ensure advocacy was not negatively impacted. While Facebook and other platforms will continue to refine what is and what is not determined as accepted content, our digital team collaborates and works together to continue our expertise in online advocacy and communications.  

 These changes reinforce the importance of having a strategic public relations plan that relies on multiple channels, tactics and tools to reach client goals. We at Martin Waymire are prepared to navigate these changes in our industry by leveraging our expertise in strategic communications, media relations, digital advertising, issue management and influencer campaigns in addition to paid and organic social media strategies.  

 These are not the last advocacy ad policy changes we will see on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social channels. While change always comes with a learning curve, it can also be an important reminder of the significance of transparency and thoughtful, comprehensive planning. Our team will continue to monitor shifting social media policies, adopting new strategies and tactics when necessary to ensure the continued success of our clients. 

 Other platforms with political advertising policy changes: