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Twitter Suspends Blackburn Ad for ‘Inflammatory or Provocative Content’

Candidates can say more on TV than on social media

Twitter took down tweets featuring Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s Senate campaign announcement video. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Twitter took down tweets featuring Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s Senate campaign announcement video. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Advertising on Twitter has its advantages for campaigns — it’s much cheaper and can be more highly targeted than TV ads. But it also has unique limitations, as one campaign discovered over the weekend.

Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburnlaunched her Senate campaign last week with a nearly-three-minute announcement video published on YouTube. Her campaign embedded the same video into a promoted tweet. But Twitter suspended it for violating the company’s ad policies.

Twitter “prohibits the promotion of inappropriate content,” according to the company’s website. That includes “inflammatory or provocative content which is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction.”

Twitter does not specify what a “strong negative reaction” would be. But that’s the clause that got Blackburn’s campaign in trouble.

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In the video, Blackburn says, “I’m 100 percent pro-life. I fought Planned Parenthood, and we stopped the sale of baby body parts. Thank God.”

A representative from Twitter pointed to that phrase — “stopped the sale of baby body parts” — to explain why the promoted tweet was suspended.

“If this is omitted from the video it will be permitted to serve,” the Twitter representative wrote the campaign.

But were this clip in a TV ad, it wouldn’t have been an issue. Candidates can say whatever they want, except for say, some curse words, which could theoretically get them censored by the Federal Communications Commission.

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“Candidate ads are protected by the First Amendment,” a Democratic ad maker explained. “Factual inaccuracy is not an issue,” another ad maker said, referring to candidate ads that run on TV. 

The Blackburn campaign, which can still link to the ad in its tweets, is now using the incident to energize its followers. 

“Join me in standing up to Silicon Valley,” Blackburn’s campaign tweeted Monday afternoon.

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