Twitter abstains from running political advertisements

By AMANDA KARP
On November 3, 2019

Photo courtesy of JD Lasica, Flickr

Twitter will no longer run political advertising on its platform.

CEO Jack Dorsey made the announcement on Oct. 30 in a Twitter thread, detailing why the decision was made.

“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Dorsey tweeted. “Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”

The only ads that Twitter will now run are those that will support voter registration.

The final policy will be shared by Nov. 15 and enforced starting on Nov. 22, which allows a notice period for advertisers on the platform.

“This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach,” Dorsey said. “And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address.”

In his thread, Dorsey directly referenced an issue with Facebook that has arisen: Facebook will no longer fact-check ads for inaccuracies.

“For instance, it's not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well...they can say whatever they want!’” Dorsey tweeted.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook, defended the company’s policy in a New York Times article by Mike Isaac.

“From a business perspective, it might be easier for us to choose a different path than the one we’re taking,” he said. “But in a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news.”

It’s not just his opinion that shapes this issue, but the money behind it. 

While Twitter made $3 million from political ads, Facebook made anywhere from $330 to $400 million from political ads, which Zuckerberg defended as less than 0.5 percent of the company’s revenue next year.

In the current political climate, it is necessary for social media platforms to not only limit the political ads that its users see, but fact check them as well. 

Social media is inundated with ads that target users’ preferences, but not fact-checking ads is a step in a dangerous direction. Misinformation runs rampant when there is nothing to keep it in check, and there must be measures in place to ensure that people are not subjected to false information.

There is no way for the public to trust any kind of information if politicians are able to pay to spread misinformation. There is no place to draw the line if this practice continues unchecked. 

 

akarp@ramapo.edu

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