Twitter Admits Possible $250m FTC Fine Over Targeted Ads

Twitter has revealed it is facing possible regulatory sanction in the United States for its practices in delivering targetted adverts.

According to CNN, Twitter made the disclosure in a regulatory filing that could face a fine of up to $250 million from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

July proved to be a horrible month for the company. In mid July Twitter was hacked, which resulted in the Twitter accounts belonging to some very public figures and corporations including Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, tweeting a bitcoin scam that offered to double people’s bitcoin payment.

Torrid time

Twitter admitted that its internal systems had been compromised after a phone-based spear phishing attack on its staff.

This bad news was then compounded when Twitter posted a net loss and a drop in revenues for its second quarter, after a sharp decline in its core advertising business during the Coronavirus pandemic.

This prompted CEO Jack Dorsey, who had earlier in the year survived an attempt to remove him, to reveal the platform was actively exploring additional ways to make more money from its users, including a possible subscription model.

And to round matters off, politicians and celebrities staged a 48 hour boycott of Twitter over the time it took to tackle some of the anti-Semitic tweets from Grime musician Wiley, who was eventually banned from the platform.

FTC fine

Into this comes the news that Twitter had received a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission on 28 July.

The complaint alleged Twitter had used data “provided for safety and security purposes for targeted advertising during periods between 2013 and 2019,” it said in the filing.

Twitter estimates the complaint could result in a loss of between $150 million and $250 million, CNN quoted it as saying.

The platform had admitted last October that it had “inadvertently” targeted ads at users through contact details that they provided for security purposes.

In November 2019 an international “grand committee” of lawmakers urged there be a pause on online targeted political ads, that contain false or misleading information.

The pressure grew so that Twitter’s Dorsey announced that from 20 November 2019, Twitter would ban all political adverts around the world.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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