Featured Image: Flickr user Eva Blue // CC2.0 License

Ever since the pre-election activities for the US Presidential elections hit the floor, we have witnessed a lot of heated battles to sway public opinion. We have had fierce, and excessively unethical campaigns run by the likes of Michael Bloomberg, who spent a fortune on his campaign, reportedly spending $1 Million a day on TV and social media ads alone.

Such massive spending by candidates, specially on social media, lead to calls for the moderation of ad campaigns on social networks. When calls grew louder, Facebook had a somewhat timid response, while Twitter looked more serious to actually vet the issue. But ‘the front page of the internet’, Reddit just made announcements, that would act as benchmarks for other onlien social networks to follow.

Reddit has updated its already strict policy for political advertising by introducing robust measures to make the campaigns more transparent.

To start with, advertisers will now be required to allow comments from users for the first 24 hours of posting an ad. This should “encourage political advertisers to use this opportunity to engage directly with users in the comments,” Reddit says. This, along with other measures, was announced via an official blog post on Tuesday.

The social platform also introduced a new subreddit, r/RedditPoliticalAds, which will have a list of all political ad campaigns running on Reddit dating back to January 1, 2019. Besides, this community will also have complete information on the individual advertiser, their targeting, impressions, and spend on a per-campaign basis.

In an interview with Politico, Ben Lee, Reddit’s vice president, and general counsel said that the company made it a “high priority” to introduce measures before the US Presidential elections scheduled for November later this year.

“We are trying to come up with a Reddit approach to what’s a pretty challenging debate regarding political ads,” Lee said. “Why we’re making this [change] is basically about two things that are pretty important to us: One is encouraging conversation around political ads and the second is transparency.”

Reddit said the latest measures were introduced to give the general public a clear insight on the political campaigners while providing them a platform to directly escalate their grievances to the concerned candidate. While the platform already had measures in place to prevent deceptive ads being run as well as a manual review of the political ads, the latest unprecedented steps will certainly bolster the transparency around the campaigns.

Political campaigning has always been in limelight for the wrong reasons. The highlight only became stronger, when an unexpected Donald Trump became the US President back in 2016, in what many call, one of the most shallow democratic voting exercise ever. There have been reports of “foreign” influence on campaigns, besides eyes being raised on the astronomical sums of money being spent on social media to sway opinions of ‘on-the-edge’ voters. Candidates have more often than not resorted to illegal measures to sway the public opinion, and have gotten away with no repercussions at all. This led to social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to introduce measures to keep this in check.

Facebook has often been the bad guy when it comes to such social issues. From privacy breaches to selling user data, the platform is famous for scandals. As expected, Facebook had initially allowed influencers on the platform to run sponsored political content. That move was later rescinded given the public outcry, with Facebook later announcing a public tracking of the political content.

Twitter, on the other hand, had more of a genuine response to this issue. The platform had already banned political ads back in November last year, it went further ahead and banned many accounts that were running coordinated campaigns for candidates. Twitter had also announced the revival of its misinformation reporting tool for the 2020 US Presidential elections.