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Twitter gives details on political ads in new transparency center

Now you can find out who's spending what on Twitter ads in federal elections.

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto

As your Twitter feed fills with ads for the midterm elections, prepare to get more information about who paid for the ads -- and why they might have targeted any given ad at you.

Twitter is making that information available in its Ads Transparency Center, which it announced Thursday. It's a portal where anyone can look up any advertiser on the social media platform and see all the ads they ran on Twitter that week. When it comes to political advertisers associated with campaigns and politicians in federal elections, Twitter will provide additional information about how much advertisers spent and what factors they chose to tailor the ads to specific Twitter users.

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What's more, the company is adding information to ads when you see them in your feed, including a badge that marks it as political.

"This will allow users to easily identify political campaign ads, know who paid for them, and whether it was authorized by a candidate," Bruce Falck, Twitter's general manager of revenue product, wrote in a blog post announcing the new features.

The announcement comes after Twitter, along with Google and Facebook, faced questioning from US lawmakers about political messaging on social media during the 2016 presidential election season. Pointing to findings from US intelligence agencies that the Russian government conducted an online campaign of misinformation and division, lawmakers asked what the social media companies were doing to make sure political advertisers were legitimate and following campaign finance laws. At the time, Twitter was the only company that would commit to not taking foreign money for political ads in the US.

Since then, all three companies have announced they'll do more to identify political ads and keep users informed about who's paying for them. In May, Facebook released a searchable archive of political ads from its site and Instagram. Google said it would release a transparency report about political ad spending on its services, which include YouTube.

Twitter's ad transparency center and political ad markings apply only to federal elections, as does its policy on political advertising in the US.

In the future, the company plans to introduce a policy for "issues ads," Falck said in Thursday's announcement. That would seem to apply to state and local elections (US federal elections only pertain to elected seats and not voter initiatives or referendums).

Twitter says it's looking into to introduce features for political ads in state and local elections in the future, but hasn't committed to doing so.

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