We’re six months out from the 2018 US midterm elections, races that will shape the political balance of both the House and Senate. Of the 535 seats in the US Congress, 35 Senate seats are being contested, and all 435 House seats. As we draw nearer to election night, social and search platforms will be prime real estate for political campaign ads from the hundreds of candidates running for office on November 6.
In an attempt to curb abuse by bad actors during elections, many social and search sites have recently updated their political advertising policies since the 2016 election cycle. Facebook, Twitter and Google have all released new rules around political ads this year.
Just this week, LinkedIn changed its political ad policy. It previously had allowed ads that clearly identify the person or entity paying for the ads. It now prohibits all political ads on the platform, including ads with content related to ballot propositions. For the first time in its history, Google has halted state and local election ads in Washington because of new state laws that require real-time disclosure of election ad information.
Katelyn Duff is the chief revenue officer for Division-D, a digital ad agency with more than 15 years’ experience working on national, state and local political campaigns. She says political advertisers need to keep a close eye on the current regulatory environment around political advertising that resulted from the 2016 elections.
“This environment demands a digital ad strategy that is equal parts advanced technology and human intuition. Advertisers need to take full advantage of advanced voter file targeting and voter affiliation targeting capabilities to ensure that their messages are reaching the right voters at the right time, but they also need to maintain the flexibility to navigate potential regulatory changes throughout the midterm election cycle,” says Duff.
With so many new policies in effect, we’ve put together the following list of political advertising policies from the most popular social and search platforms. As more updates happen around political ad policies for social and search platforms in the coming months, we will add to and update this list.
Per Bing’s list of “Disallowed content policies,” the site does not allow ads that include “political and religious content.” We’ve reached out to Bing to confirm it forbids any political advertising but have not received a comment.
After facing a firestorm of criticism around who it sold political ads space to during the 2016 elections, Facebook has rolled out new political ad policies this year.
As of May 25, the identity and location of all political advertisers must be verified by the site. Political ads on Facebook will include labels at the top of the ad clearly identifying “Paid for” information identifying the person or organization financing the ad. Facebook has also created an archive of political ad content that can be accessed when clicking on the “Paid for” label.
Facebook’s political ad policies pertain to both political and issue-based ads.
Google updated its ad policies this year, aiming to make political advertising on the site more transparent.
Google now requires additional verification for anyone purchasing an election-related ad on Google in the US. US political advertisers must confirm they are a US citizen or lawful permanent resident (as required by law). “That means advertisers will have to provide a government-issued ID and other key information,” says Google.
In addition, to verification of the identity of political advertisers, political ads must include clear disclosure of the person or organization paying for the ad.
As a Facebook-owned property, Instagram’s rules for political and issue-based ads fall under the same policies that apply to political and issue-based ads on Facebook. The identity and location of political advertisers must be verified by the site, and all ads must include a label at the top of the ad identifying the person or organization that paid for the ad.
Just this week, LinkedIn revised its political ad policy. It now prohibits any political ads, including ads that promote or advocate against candidates or ballot proposition or aim to influence an election outcome.
Pinterest says that while it allows political ads, the platform has fairly conservative policies around what it allows and therefore has a small number of advertisers in the political ad space.
Per the site’s advertising guidelines, political campaigning ads are only allowed for US federal or state candidates running for public office, political parties or political committees advocating for the election or defeat of a US federal or state candidate for public office. Pinterest does not allow negative campaign ads that attack political candidates or political campaign ads that promote hate speech.
In additions to its rules, Pinterest states that all political candidates and political committees must comply with the Federal Election Commission’s rules.
Political advertising on Quora must adhere to the following rules: No negative campaigning ads that attack political candidates; political ads must be in compliance with any election “silence periods”; and all ads must be in compliance with the Federal Election Commission’s rules.
Quora also manually reviews every single advertiser account and political ad before it goes live on the site.
Reddit’s political ad policy dictates that all public communications related to a political issue must be manually reviewed and pre-approved. In addition to complying with the Federal Elections Commission and applicable state laws, Reddit also forbids political ads that contain “content that depicts intolerant or overly contentious political or cultural topics or views.”
Snapchat’s political ad policies state upfront that all political advertising on the platform must be transparent and lawful and cannot be misleading or deceptive. The messaging platform is currently in the process of updating guidelines around ads related to elections and political advocacy, but as it stands now, political advertisers on the platform must comply with the Federal Election Commission regulations and all other applicable state and local laws.
As part of its political ad policies, Snapchat has included a list of content it does not allow, including content that harasses, intimidates, threatens or ridicules; content impersonating any person or entity or otherwise misrepresenting affiliation with a person or entity; content that features graphic violence, firearms or obscenity; or any other content that violates the platform’s ad guidelines.
Snapchat considers political ads related to elections outside of the US on a case-by-case basis at its discretion.
Twitter also rolled out new political advertising policies this year as part of its overall initiative to improve the health of the platform.
As of May 30, Twitter profile pages of US midterm election candidates will include labels directly under the candidate’s name listing the office the candidate is running for, the state location for the office and the district number and a small blue icon of a government building to signify the person is a political candidate.
Twitter is also launching a Political Campaigning Policy later this summer
YouTube’s ad policies are the same as Google’s: US political advertisers must verify their identity and confirm they are a US citizen or lawful permanent resident to run political ads on the video platform. Political ad content must also include clear disclosure of the person or organization that purchased the ad.
YouTube has recently introduced stricter rules around which channels are allowed to monetize their videos, in a move designed to combat YouTube’s brand-safety issues. Channels must now have at least 1,000 subscribers and have accrued 4,000 hours of watch-time during the last 12 months. Also, only ads that have been manually reviewed will be allowed to run on videos within Google’s Preferred Network, which is made up of the site’s most popular channels.
As these political ad policies evolve or change, we will continue to update our list.