Twitter Bans Political Advertising and Starts Sinking
Twitter and Facebook have been battling it out for some time in order to determine who is going to reach the top. Facebook has hit the news recently because of saying that they’re not going to do any fact-checking. This would, essentially, allow politicians to lie in their ads without any kind of issue.
Twitter decided to make a bold move: They’re no longer allowing political ads to hit their website. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, made the announcement on Wednesday after Facebook said that they’ll accept ads but won’t do any fact-checking and will not remove any ads.
Lawmakers and employees alike have gotten upset about Facebook’s decision. As for Twitter, their stock plummeted almost immediately after the decision was formally announced.
Jack Dorsey, simply known as @Jack on Twitter, identified that they believe that political message reach should be earned as opposed to being bought. While the stock dropped in hours following the announcement, Twitter has also made sure that they are in stark contrast to Facebook.
Dorsey has provided plenty of reasons as to why they have made the decision. Political messages earn reach when people choose to retweet or follow an account. When a message is paid, it removes the decision. It forces targeted and highly optimized messages on people. They do not want to compromise political decisions based on money.
Dorsey also explained that it would not be credible if Twitter stays committed to stopping the spread of misinformation while allowing political ads to take place simply because they’ve paid to have their ads in place.
Dorsey took a shot at Facebook without naming the social media platform or its CEO. Mark Zuckerberg has been using the phrase “free expression” significantly over the past few weeks, particularly as it pertains to the political ad policy in place at Facebook. Dorsey used the same phrase to say that it isn’t about free expression. Instead, he reiterated that it’s about paying for reach. His opinion is that it’s time to step back in order to address the situation appropriately.
As for whether this will hurt the company, the CFO of Twitter, Ned Segal, says it won’t. Political ad spend is only a small percentage of the total business that goes on within the social media platform. According to Segal, it was less than $3 million in sales during the 2018 US midterm elections.
Segal also addressed everyone on Twitter because of getting questions. The decision was made based on principle as opposed to money. He says that there will be no change to quarter for guidance based on the change that was made. He also identifies that he is proud to work at Twitter because of this decision.
For clarity, Dorsey talked about the different types of political ads. Originally, there was a discussion of only barring candidate ads. However, issue ads can provide a workaround. Ultimately, Twitter decided to ban political ads in general so that campaigns couldn’t focus on a particular issue without mentioning the candidate. They believe that this is the fairest way to deal with politics while maintaining a democratic structure. Otherwise, it ends up being the person who has the most money that gets the most reach as opposed to the person who has the most organic reach.
Several key Democrats have praised Dorsey’s announcement. While there are certainly candidates who are likely frustrated by this new regulation, others are happy to see that it is happening. Some have even chosen to poke Facebook and Google within their praises, such as House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman, David Cicilline, with a “Your move” comment to both Google and Facebook. Hillary Clinton even said it’s the “right thing to do for democracy” in the U.S. She, too, tagged Facebook.
Facebook has been doing its own thing for a while, which is what has gotten them into so much trouble. With Twitter stopping all political advertising, candidates have a choice – continue to use Twitter without paying for advertising or move everything over to Facebook without caring about any kind of preservation of election integrity. This will say a lot about candidates based on whether they are going to save their political advertising dollars to use and various other areas or if they are going to dump millions of dollars into Facebook.
Either way, Twitter has chosen to draw a line in the sand to show that there is a difference between them and their social media rival, Facebook. Republicans and Democrats alike are praising them for making a decision based on integrity as opposed to dollar signs.