Twitter bans political ads on its platform globally

Oct 31 2019, 9:24 am

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced this week that its platform will stop all political advertising globally.

Dorsey said that political message reach should be earned, and not bought.

“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet,” Dorsey tweeted. “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.”

The tech CEO continued to say 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.”

According to Dorsey, Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse.

And in a direct jab at Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, the Twitter CEO continued to say, “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!😉’”

Earlier this month, Zuckerberg spoke about freedom of expression at Georgetown University. During his speech, he addressed transparency and Facebook’s decision not to ban the use of political ads on its platform.

“Given the sensitivity around political ads, I’ve considered whether we should stop allowing them altogether,” he said at the time. “From a business perspective, the controversy is not worth the very small part of the business that they make up.”

Zuckerberg continued by saying that when “it’s not absolutely clear what to do, we should err on the side of greater expression.”

Twitter said it 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.”

Dorsey again took aim at Zuckerberg, saying he is well aware that Twitter is a small part of a much larger political advertising ecosystem.

“Some might argue our actions today could favour incumbents,” he said. “But we have witnessed many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow.”

Dorsey said that Twitter will share its final policy by November 15, and will start enforcing the policy on November 22.

“A final note,” Dorsey said in a last tweet. “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.”

With files from Kathryn Kyte.