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Twitter Says Will Disclose Who's Behind Political Ads Amid Russia Probes

Social media giant Twitter, under pressure for running advertisements placed by Russian operatives during last year's U.S. presidential election, said it will make it easier in the future for people to see who is behind such political ads.

Twitter said on October 24 that it will add labels to political ads in the future and provide information about who is behind them.

The move comes a month after Facebook said it will disclose more about who is behind its widely viewed political ads.

Both companies have said their popular platforms, which have become major communications outlets in dozens of countries, were exploited by operatives based in Russia seeking to influence U.S. voters during last year's elections.

Twitter last month suspended about 200 Russia-linked accounts. The companies have also said they are investigating whether their platforms were used to try to influence elections in France, Germany, and other countries.

The social media companies are under pressure in the wake of investigations in the U.S. Congress and at the U.S. Justice Department into allegations that Russia sought to influence the U.S. election and may have coordinated with U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign -- charges denied both by the Kremlin and Trump.

Twitter said in a blog post it would establish a website where people can see the identities of ad buyers and find out which demographic groups their ads are targeting as well as the total amount spent on the ads.

Twitter said its changes will take effect first in the United States and then globally.

In the past, Silicon Valley firms have been exempt from U.S. laws that require disclosures and disclaimers on political ads placed on television and radio stations.

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar said on October 24 that Twitter's plan to increase disclosure was "no substitute for updating our laws" to reflect the increasing prevalence of social media advertising by political campaigns.

Klobuchar, a Democrat, is co-sponsoring legislation in the U.S. Congress that would make such disclosures mandatory.

Senator Mark Warner, another co-sponsor, tweeted that Twitter's move was "a good first step."

Twitter said that it will in the future label as "promoted by political account" any election-related ads that appear on Twitter feeds.

"To make it clear when you are seeing or engaging with an electioneering ad, we will now require that electioneering advertisers identify their campaigns as such," Bruce Falck, a Twitter general manager, said in the blog post.

Twitter said it also would limit how political organizations can target election ads toward certain groups of voters, and introduce stronger penalties for election advertisers who violate its policies.

The company said it would also provide ways for people to see all the ads currently running on Twitter.

Twitter's latest move would not address the question of fake accounts that some lawmakers also blame for influencing last year's U.S. elections. Unlike Facebook, Twitter allows users to establish anonymous accounts and automated accounts, or bots.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said Twitter's increased transparency measures are "not a solution to the deployment of bots that amplify fake or misleading content, or to the successful efforts of online trolls to promote divisive messages."

Executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter are scheduled to testify next week before intelligence committees in the U.S. Senate and House on Russian use of their platforms during last year's campaigns.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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