On Wednesday, 30 October 2019, Twitter revealed it would stop its acceptance of political advertising globally on its platform. The social media giant was responding to the criticism it had received over misinformation from politicians on social media.
Twitter’s Chief Executive, Jack Dorsey, tweeted that while internet advertising “is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.”
The company will be making the change amid the pressure that Facebook has faced with regard to applying “fact-checking to politicians running ads with debunked claims.”
Twitter bans political adverts
We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons…🧵— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019
Twitter’s Chief Executive, Jack Dorsey speaking about the company stopping political advertising on their platform. Photo: Twitter/@jack
Dorsey revealed that the new policy would ban adverts on political issues and from candidates. Further details about the policy will be shared next month.
It’s expected that the new policy will start from 22 November 2019. The chief executive explained:
“We considered stopping only candidate ads, but issue ads present a way to circumvent. Additionally, it isn’t fair for everyone but candidates to buy ads for issues they want to push. So we’re stopping these too.”Jack Dorsey, Twitter Chief Executive
This new action was also implemented to stop potential problems from “machine learning-based optimisation of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information and deep fakes.”
Facebook refuses to initiate the same ban
A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019
On the other hand, Facebook’s policy allows political speech and adverts to appear without being fact-checked. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg confessed how political advertising wasn’t a great source of revenue.
However, he said his belief was that everyone deserved to have a “voice.” He felt banning political adverts “would favour incumbents.”
Dorsey, in turn, disagreed with Zuckerberg’s assessment. He stated:
“We have witnessed many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow.”Jack Dorsey, Twitter Chief Executive
In the United States, Democrats are pressurising Facebook to remove the adverts. Besides politicians speaking out, a group of Facebook employees has also asked the company to make stronger efforts in addressing “civic misinformation” from politicians.
Twitter’s announcement received well
Michelle Amazeen, a Boston University professor specialising in political communication had this to say on the matter:
“Until privately owned social media platforms can develop and consistently enforce standards to prevent demonstrably inaccurate information in political advertising, this is the right move.”Michelle Amazeen, Boston University professor
Nina Jankowicz, a Wilson Center fellow specialising in disinformation also had a positive outlook to the announcement.
“It’s great that this move has been made globally and not just within the United States. Too often these companies operate in a cloud of willful ignorance about the effects their products have outside our borders.”Nina Jankowicz, Wilson Center fellow
Jankowicz also noted how the new Twitter policy would balance the playing field in politics. She stated how wealthier candidates and groups would be prevented from leading the social conversation.
“Paid speech essentially quashes some groups’ ability to speak out and be heard because they can’t compete with the reach that their richer counterparts pay for.”Nina Jankowicz, Wilson Center fellow