What Twitter’s ban on political advertising means for us

Roisin Maguire

Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey announced that it will ban political advertisements by November 15th. The purpose of this move is to stop politicians from advertising false statements on the social media platform.

Dorsey tweeted that “political message reach should be earned, not bought” and he gave a few reasons for this. He said: “A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people.”

This then puts pressure on Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO to do the same for Facebook and improve the situation of constant misinformation across the social media platform.

Facebook is currently involved in a controversy after Nick Clegg revealed that politicians are exempt from Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program, meaning politicians can easily spread whatever they please. Facebook is protecting those in power so they are of course feeling pressure from Twitter’s latest move.

Twitter already had rules and regulations around political ads. In 2018, Twitter created regulations for direct political ads and issue ads meaning that account holders must apply for certification which allows Twitter to verify their identity and their promoted tweets will be marked with either “issue” or the name of the campaign.

In Dorsey’s Twitter thread he made a comment about Facebook saying: “We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, but if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want!” He ended the tweet with the winky face emoji.

The problem with this new move is that Twitter has the final decision on what political ads have earned their reach and what ones have paid their way to this influence.

However political ads are all very different and it is difficult to determine what will be banned from Twitter. Twitter’s policy and legal lead, Vijaya Gadde, said that an ad that refers to an election or a candidate and ads that advocate for or against legislative issues are examples of what will be banned.

This new move will make it difficult for newcomers to make it into the media since journalists find tweets that have a lot of likes and make those tweets newsworthy therefore this ban is preventing this from happening.

It is still up to Twitter to decide what is political, therefore this new regulation might not be fully enforced as legislative issues is a very vast topic, for example, health care, birth control and many other issues like these are considered political. Twitter is deciding for its users what they believe is political which creates a bias because everyone has their own opinions on what should and should not be allowed onto our timelines.

Realistically, this move will only have a small effect on how much politics is seen on Twitter because these political messages are allowed in tweets anyway. Perhaps, instead of completely banning political ads, Twitter should promote transparency within political ads and tweets.

By: Roisin Maguire

Image: Pixabay