Yesterday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that political ads will be effectively banned from the platform starting November 22. The ban includes both ads from candidates and issue-centric ads — all in an effort to curb the rampant proliferation of misinformation on social media ahead of the 2020 election. Rather than fact-check political ads, as so many are calling for Mark Zuckerberg to do on Facebook, Jack Dorsey’s solution for Twitter is to get rid of them altogether.
“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,” wrote Dorsey. “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.”
It’s an approach that diametrically opposes Zuckerberg’s. As it stands, Facebook’s current policy lets politicians lie in ads that run on Facebook — a policy that Elizabeth Warren put to the test herself with an intentionally misleading ad that claimed Mark Zuckerberg endorsed Trump’s reelection. Still, Zuckerberg remains of the position that it isn’t the right of private companies to censor politicians or the news. His strict adherence to allowing free speech — even paid, blatantly inaccurate free speech — to remain on Facebook has even received criticism from his own employees, 250 of whom signed a letter objecting to the current policy.
A final note. This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach. 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.
— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019
Dorsey says that the final Twitter policy will be released on November 15, which will be implemented on November 22. And already, it is being met with strong reactions across the political aisle — including praise from Hillary Clinton and criticism from the Trump campaign, which claims this ban is an attempt to “silence conservatives.”
This is the right thing to do for democracy in America and all over the world.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 30, 2019
Twitter bans political ads in yet another attempt by the left to silence Trump and conservatives. Wouldn’t be surprised if @twitter lifted the ban after 2020.
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) October 30, 2019
Many folks have asked whether I believe all social media political ads should be banned outright.
I believe that if a company cannot or does not wish to run basic fact-checking on paid political advertising, then they should not run paid political ads at all. /2
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 30, 2019
Currently, Pinterest also prohibits political campaigning on its platform, and TikTok recently announced it would be banning political ads as well. As for whether Zuckerberg will change his position, only time will tell. Following yesterday’s Twitter announcement, a third-party Facebook fact-checker will reportedly propose a change to the company’s current ad policy next week at a meeting for fact-checkers, according to CNN Business. Because if Facebook is unwilling to eliminate political ads altogether — they should at least vet the ones that make it onto their platform.
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