By Bill Pan
X is going to allow political advertising in the United States from candidates and political parties, the social media company announced on Aug. 29.
“During elections, X works to get in front of a range of tactics that people use to target the process,” the Elon Musk-owned company said in a blog post. “To do this we hire the right people, update our policies and evolve our product.”
The decision reverses the ban dating back to October 2019, when the platform was still known as Twitter. At the time, Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey tried to justify the restrictive policy by saying, “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.”
While allowing paid-for political ads back, the platform promises to enhance policies aimed at combating the spread of false information.
“This will include prohibiting the promotion of false or misleading content, including false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election, while seeking to preserve free and open political discourse,” the company said in a blog post.
“We’ll also provide a global advertising transparency center so that everyone can review political posts being promoted on X, in addition to robust screening processes to ensure only eligible groups and campaigns are able to advertise.”
On top of that, X said it will expand Community Notes, a crowdsourced fact-checking system made available globally in December 2022. The feature allows users to sign up to become Community Notes moderators, which grants them the ability to add contextual notes to posts. Users can then vote on whether they find the context accurate or helpful.
All paid-for “promoted” posts are eligible for Community Notes, including promoted political content, according to X’s blog post.
“X shouldn’t determine the truthfulness of disputed information; rather, we should empower our users to express their opinions and openly debate during elections, in line with our commitment to protecting freedom of expression,” the blog post reads.
During elections, specifically, X said it will maintain its civic integrity policy, which prohibits manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes. The company is now updating the policy to keep the right balance between “tackling the most harmful types of content—those that could intimidate or deceive people into surrendering their right to participate in a civic process—and not censoring political debate.”
This will be enforced in a manner consistent with X’s “Freedom of Speech, Not Reach” philosophy, which in practice limits the visibility of posts that violate the platform’s policies and adds publicly visible labels to those posts so that users know their visibility has been limited.
The Aug. 29 announcement followed Mr. Musk’s latest tweak to X, which no longer allows users to block other accounts.
“Block is going to be deleted as a ‘feature,’ except for [direct messages],” wrote Mr. Musk, who became the owner of Twitter in October 2022 after closing a $44 billion deal for the company. “Makes no sense.”
Instead of using the “block,” Mr. Musk recommended that users take advantage of the “mute” function instead. Currently, X’s “mute” button simply prevents an account’s posts from showing up on your feed, whereas the “block” button blocks that account from viewing your public posts. The “muted” accounts are still able to reply to your public posts, although you won’t get notifications, and replies are hidden from your view by default.
In 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit over whether or not former President Donald Trump could block individuals from seeing content published on his Twitter account, saying that the end of President Trump’s first term in the White House effectively made moot the case of whether or not he should be able to decide who could see his posts.