While Facebook still refuses to do anything about political ads that appear on its social media platform even as lawmakers and regulators in the United States and elsewhere clamor for the social media company to exert more control over fake political ads, its fellow social media company Twitter has announced that it would be banning political advertisement completely on its platform.
Making the announcement on Wednesday through a series of tweets, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said: “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.”
This means that the social media platform will not allow paid political ads but will allow politicians to use the platform to organically increase followers through tweets.
The reasoning behind the decision of Twitter was explained in details by Dorsey through the tweets. He said that when Twitter users follow or retweet an account with political messages, it leads to increased reach of the same. “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,” he wrote ion one of the tweets.
By warning that the power of internet advertising “brings significant risks to politics”, Dorsey took a dig at Facebook which has said that it will not check facts of ads from politicians.
“We’re well aware we’re a small part of a much larger political advertising ecosystem,” Dorsey concluded. “Some might argue our actions today could favor incumbents. But we have witnessed many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow.”
A spokesman for Twitter told Recode that the company’s definition of political content will guide its definition of a political ad and both the definitions would essentially be aligned.
The online political advertising space is primarily dominated by Facebook and Google and Twitter is a relatively small player in that space. Despite the size, the decision of Twitter will certainly put pressure on Facebook and Google to do something about political ads as both the companies have come under heavy scrutiny about their policies and attitudes towards political ads. It is also interesting that this decision on political ads from Twitter comes at the same time as Facebook announced its quarterly earnings report. on
The policy of not fact-checking ads that are run by politicians by Facebook have especially come under heavy scrutiny and criticism. Company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has vigorously defended the position of the company about political ads and supporting it even as the company faces severe criticism from reporters, lawmakers, and its own employees. All are pressurizing Zuckerberg to reconsider the policy and attitude of the company.
By banning all forms of political ads, it is clear that Twitter has won over a public relations war among its rival social media platforms even if its decision does not actually make that much of a difference to the overall problems of political ads given its size in the political ad market. In addition this move puts more pressure on Facebook and Google to do something about their stand on political ads.
(Adapted from Vox.com)