On Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced his platform would no longer host political advertisements worldwide beginning November 22. Going forward, neither individual politicians nor political groups can use the social media service as a marketing channel. However, the executive noted there would be some exceptions to the new policy, including allowing voter registration promotional material.
Dorsey said Twitter’s revised paid political content policy would be unveiled on November 15.
Why Twitter is Banning Political Ads
Twitter’s chief executive explained the reasoning behind the company’s policy change in a series of posts. Dorsey noted his platform’s reach and micro-targeting tools make it easy for organizations to get their message out to consumers. However, he also said his service’s scope and ease of access make it easy for bad actors to spread misinformation.
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
Dorsey also highlighted the contradiction of Twitter publically taking a stand against the corporation of misinformation but also accepting money to spread lies and distortions. Though the executive didn’t mention the company by name, his statement seems to take an implicit dig at Facebook. This week, the social network has received criticism from Congress and its own employees for refusing to fact-check its political ads.
Besides, last week, Dorsey chastised Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his beliefs regarding social media and free speech.
The Twitter founder also admitted the platform’s shift might benefit incumbents. However, he tempered that statement by noting how his service facilitated the growth of several social movements without paid advertising.
Without challenging the positive nature of Twitter’s policy change, the timing of its announcement is a public relations masterstroke.
Reactions From Politicians
Directly following Dorsey’s announcement, several high-profile U.S. politicians weighed in on Twitter’s advertising policy change.
On Wednesday, Brad Parscale, manager of President Trump’s reelection campaign, tweeted a statement slamming the social media’s services new position. The missive argued Twitter’s political ad ban is an attempt to silence conservatives, a grievance shared by many right-leaning public figures. The campaign post also alleged the firm is making the change specifically to hurt the President.
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
Parscale’s tweet also admonished Twitter for turning away “hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue.”
However, the social media company’s policy change has been warmly received by left-leaning politicians. Bill Russo, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign manager, applauded the move. “We appreciate that Twitter recognizes that they should not permit disproven smears, like those from the Trump campaign, to appear in advertisements on their platform,” said Russo.
Earlier this month, the Biden campaign sent a letter to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube asking them to ban misleading political ads.
Several Democratic legislators used Twitter’s policy shift to recommend Facebook follow suit. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) tweeted Zuckerberg should ban political ads from his platform if he’s serious about not spreading misinformation. Similarly, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) expressed his support for the paid political content ban. He also noted, “Allowing politicians to run false ads under the guise of ‘free speech’ will only spread more misinformation and further coarsen our public debate.”
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who grilled Zuckerberg about his platform’s political ad policy earlier this week, called Twitter’s ban “a good call.” She also argued social media companies have a responsibility to preserve the integrity of U.S. elections.