Washington/Skopje, 31 October 2019 (dpa/MIA) – Twitter will stop all political advertising globally beginning next month, Jack Dorsey, the company’s founder and chief executive, announced Wednesday on Twitter.
“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Dorsey said, laying out the reasons for the decision in a series of tweets centering on the downside of political advertising on a digital social media platform.
“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,” Dorsey wrote.
The change will take effect well ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The Twitter executive said the final policy, with exceptions, would be communicated by Nov. 15 and enforced on Nov. 22.
Social media platforms have come under pressure to regulate their content following accusations that Facebook was used to influence the 2016 US presidential election and Britain’s Brexit referendum.
As social media companies take steps to counter the spread of fake news they have been faced with how to treat legitimate politicians.
Dorsey said among the reasons for the decision is that internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse because of factors like micro-targeting, which allow ads to be tailored to interest groups. Critics say micro-targeting is susceptible to abuse, particularly when spreading false or misleading claims.
He also noted unchecked misleading information, adding that on social media all occur “at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”
Dorsey indirectly criticized Facebook, which has resisted calls to stop political ads. He said it would harm Twitter‘s credibility to, on the one hand, say the company was doing all it could to stem the flow of misleading information, while on the other allowing it to be spread for money.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg defended his stance in a phone conference with the press on Wednesday after the release of the company’s latest quarterly report.
“In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news,” he said in a Facebook post summarizing the call.
He said the decision was not about making money from political ads, but rather because “we deeply believe that political speech is important and should be able to be heard.”
Meanwhile, MIA received a press release by the Party of European Socialists welcoming the move by Twitter to ban all political advertising from its feed to protect the integrity of public discussion.
“All political parties must be able to pitch their ideas to the public and engage in meaningful conversation,” the release reads. “We believe that political parties should be judged by the quality of their ideas, not the size of their budgets.
“All companies from all sectors—public or private—bear social responsibility, especially those who are powerful and essential for democracy, such as the press or—increasingly—social media platforms. We commend Twitter for their decision – this is good for democracy and we call on other big players to follow suit,” PES President Sergei Stanishev wrote.
The PES has always stood for the protection of freedom of speech and the independence of the media and firmly against all sources of fake news and misleading political messages, in order to protect the integrity of the European Union’s core values, the release adds.