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Twitter bans pre-election political advertising

Briefs | 06/26/2019 6:20 pm EST

Ending several months of uncertainty and speculations, Twitter Inc. has declared that it will join Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Microsoft Corp.’s Bing search engine in not selling any political advertisements in Canada in the run-up to the federal election, though it will resume selling such ads once the election begins. 

“Our policy and enforcement teams will be building the necessary infrastructure and product support to ensure we are appropriately prepared for the critical election period,” Twitter’s director of public policy in Canada Michele Austin wrote in a statement Wednesday. 

After the writ of election is dropped, the statement continued, Twitter will resume selling political ads and will post them to its registry of political advertising, as mandated by the Elections Modernization Act, also known as Bill C-76. 

The bill, which became law in December of 2018, mandates that platforms like Google, Twitter, and Facebook Inc. create a searchable database of political and partisan ads sold during the 2019 election. 

Thus far, only Facebook has said it will be able to create such a registry, which it says it will complete by June 30. 

In testimony before the Ethics committee of the House of Commons in May, Google said it wouldn’t be able to build such a registry in time. “It was simply not feasible for us to implement the extensive changes necessary to accommodate the new requirements in the very short time before the new provisions take effect,” said Jason Kee, Google’s public policy and government relations counsel.

The decision by Google not to sell ads drew ire from some of the members of parliament on the committee. 

“This would be akin to not just one but multiple broadcaster saying we are not running political advertising, because we can’t figure it out. And I don’t view that, in 2019, to be an acceptable answer,” Erskine-Smith told reporters after the hearing in May. 

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