Washington, DC – X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has lifted a ban on political advertising, though it says it will still prohibit the promotion of false information.
The move comes as the 2024 election campaign season in the United States kicks off. In a blog post on Tuesday, X laid out its approach to “political discourse” as the election nears.
“Building on our commitment to free expression, we are also going to allow political advertising. Starting in the US, we’ll continue to apply specific policies to paid-for promoted political posts,” X said in the post.
“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 decision will provide candidates with more avenues to reach voters online while also boosting X’s revenues amid plummeting advertising sales.
In January, X relaxed restrictions on “cause-based advertising”, but Tuesday’s move appears to allow election campaigns and political groups to run advertisements in favour or against particular candidates.
Twitter, which was acquired by billionaire Elon Musk last year and subsequently rebranded as X, banned political advertising in 2019 ahead of the 2020 US presidential vote.
The company’s then-CEO Jack Dorsey said at that time that “political message reach should be earned, not bought”.
Political advertising on social media has become a contentious issue in the US, particularly after allegations surfaced that Russia used social media to spread disinformation ahead of the 2016 elections.
On Tuesday, X said it will implement “robust screening processes to ensure only eligible groups and campaigns are able to advertise”. It did not elaborate on who would or would not be able to run political ads.
The company also said it was expanding its safety and election teams and “closely monitoring the platform for emerging threats”, likely referring to artificial intelligence-generated images.
Musk, a self-described free-speech absolutist, has drastically slashed X’s workforce since taking over the platform, raising concerns about the company’s ability to moderate content.
Conservatives have long decried what they view as social media companies’ heavy-handed approach to policing information.
For instance, the Republican attorneys general of the US states of Louisiana and Missouri sued the administration of President Joe Biden over its efforts to collaborate with social media companies on COVID-19 misinformation.
That lawsuit briefly resulted in an injunction against the Biden administration, largely barring its officials from communicating with social media platforms. An appeals court, however, paused that ban just over a week later.
Critics also have decried the suspension of several high-profile politicians from social media platforms over controversial content.
Twitter, for example, indefinitely suspended former US President Donald Trump in January 2021, shortly after his supporters launched an attack on the US Capitol. It cited the “risk of further incitement of violence”.
But Musk reinstated Trump’s account in November 2022. After his arrest in Georgia last week to face charges over his 2020 election interference efforts, the former president posted on X for the first time in years, sharing a photo of his mugshot.
Trump later suggested that he would continue to use his own Truth Social platform and not return full-time to X.
“I BELIEVE THAT TRUTH SOCIAL IS THE GREATEST & ‘HOTTEST’ FORM, SYSTEM, & PLATFORM OF COMMUNICATION IN AMERICA, & INDEED THE WORLD, TODAY. THAT’S WHY I USE IT — THERE IS NOTHING THAT COMES EVEN CLOSE!!!” Trump wrote in a post on Monday.