Reddit announces updates, including a new subreddit, to increase political ad transparency

Reddit announced an update to its policy for political advertising that will require campaigns to leave comments open on ads for the first 24 hours. The platform also launched a new subreddit, r/RedditPoliticalAds, that will include information about advertisers, targeting, impressions and spending by each campaign.

In a post, Reddit said “we will strongly encourage political advertisers to use this opportunity to engage directly with users in the comments.” The new subreddit will also list all political ad campaigns on Reddit going back to January 1, 2019.

The company said that the latest update and new subreddit are meant to give users a “chance to engage directly and transparently with political advertisers around important political issues, and provide a line of sight into the campaigns and political organizations seeking your attention.”

Reddit’s ad policy already banned deceptive ads and required political ads to be manually reviewed for messaging and creative content. The platform only allows ads from within the United States, at the federal level, which means ads for state and local campaigns are not allowed.

In response to a user who asked if there are measures in place to prevent advertisers from increasing the size of their campaign to reach more users after the 24-hour open comment period is over, Reddit said “that activity will trigger a re-review of the ad and it would result in rejection.”

Political advertising policy updates by social platforms ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election have ranged from Facebook’s refusal to ban or fact-check political ads despite harsh criticism of the platform’s inaction during the 2016 election, to Google’s limits on demographic targeting and Twitter’s outright ban on political ads.

In an interview with Politico, Ben Lee, Reddit vice president and general counsel, suggested that Reddit is unlikely to adopt a policy like Twitter’s, saying that “just getting rid of political ads doesn’t strike me as the right approach in this context.”

Instead, he said Reddit’s update is “basically about two things that are pretty important to us: One is encouraging conversation around political ads and the second is transparency.”