Twitter Clarifies: Tweeters Own Their Tweets, Sponsored or Not

Posted by on May 25, 2010 at 3:26 pm.

Twitter has clarified their announcement from yesterday that:

“aside from Promoted Tweets, we will not allow any third party to inject paid tweets into a timeline on any service that leverages the Twitter API.”

This broad statement triggered a rash of “sky is falling” … posts … about … Twitter’s desire to kill … the … advertising segment … of their … ecosystem — even if it meant controlling what users could tweet about. That didn’t make sense to me because in that very same announcement, Twitter reiterated their Rule #1:

“1. We don’t seek to control what users tweet. And users own their own tweets”

Within hours these two conflicting ideas were resolved; however, after the initial buzz died down and Ryan Sarver from Twitter’s API team clarified that:

“I want to make sure this part is clear — this policy change isn’t meant to say that we are going to start policing if the content of something a user tweets is an ad or not. The policy change affects 3rd party services that were putting ads in the middle of a timeline.

So if Liz is paid by Reebok to tweet about how much she loves their new shoes, we are not going to be policing that any more than we were on Friday. This policy also *does not prohibit* services like [SponsoredTweets,, MyLikes or others] that help facilitate those relationships or even help her post the ads to her timeline on her behalf.

It *does prohibit* an application from calling out to a service to find an ad to serve to Liz that will get inserted into the timeline she is viewing.  The language is somewhat nuanced but it sounds like we might need to make the policy more explicit as a number of people are misinterpreting it. Let me know if you have more questions. Ryan”

This approach makes more sense to me, targeted at applications that inject automated ads into timelines without users being involved. Such an automated approach is inconsistent with Twitter’s #1 Rule: user control. Likewise, prohibiting users from endorsing products they choose to endorse would also fly in the face of user control.

Therefore, the sky isn’t falling on Twitter’s advertising ecosystem and this is a smart move by Twitter to continue reinforcing that users control and own their own tweets, sponsored or not.

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