Twitter announces ban on showcasing political ads on its platform

DN Bureau

Twitter has decided to stop all political advertising on its platform globally, the company's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday.

Representative Image
Representative Image

New Delhi: Twitter has decided to stop all political advertising on its platform globally, the company's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday.

In a series of tweets, Dorsey said the company's stance has been that the reach of a political message should be earned and not bought.

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"A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimised and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money," he said.

"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 added.

The 42-year-old CEO said that internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse -- machine learning-based optimisation of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes, which he noted, was at increasing velocity, sophistication, and an overwhelming scale.

"These challenges will affect all internet communication, not just political ads. Best to focus our efforts on the root problems, without the additional burden and complexity taking money brings. Trying to fix both means fixing neither well, and harms our credibility," he said.

Dorsey further said, "We 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."

"We're well aware that we're a small part of a much larger political advertising ecosystem. Some might argue our actions today could favour incumbents. But we have witnessed many social movements reach a massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow," he continued.

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Dorsey called on the need to have more a forward-looking regulation on political advertisements and said that internet regulators need to ensure a level playing field.

"In addition, we need more forward-looking political ad regulation (very difficult to do). Ad transparency requirements progress, but not enough. The internet provides entirely new capabilities, and regulators need to think past the present day to ensure a level playing field," he stressed.

The Twitter CEO said that the social networking firm will share its final policy by November 15 and begin enforcing it on November 22.

"We'll share the final policy by 11/15, including a few exceptions (ads in support of voter registration will still be allowed, for instance). We'll start enforcing our new policy on 11/22 to provide current advertisers a notice period before this change goes into effect," he said.

"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," Dorsey further said.

The announcement by Twitter comes amid an ongoing controversy over its rival Facebook, which has been accused by top Democrats of profiting by allowing misinformation in political advertising.

Earlier this month, Facebook refused to pull down an advertisement from US President Donald Trump's campaign criticising his rival and former Vice President Joe Biden, despite dissent from several Democrat lawmakers, The Hill reported.

The social media giant, however, said it will not "fact-check political ads from public officials or candidates".(ANI)

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