Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced on Oct. 30 that the social media platform would be banning all political advertisements.
In a tweet, he wrote, “We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.”
The ban aims to stop all political advertisements regardless of who pays for them.
It targets all ads that involve politics around the globe. This also includes ads about issues such as gun rights, abortion, and ads to promote candidates. Politicians, social leaders and movements can still tweet whatever they want on their personal and organization accounts, but they will no longer be able to pay to have their agenda pushed into a person’s Twitter feed.
Dorsey said that he wants people to be able to find political subjects when they want rather than be forced to see them.
“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet,” Dorsey said. “Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people.”
This decision by Twitter was made on the day before Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was set to announce the company’s quarterly earnings. Zuckerberg said that his platform would continue to allow political ads to be displayed, despite what Twitter would be doing.
Zuckerberg defended his decision on the company’s earnings call.
“Some people accuse us of allowing speech because they think all we care about is making money, and that’s wrong,” Zuckerberg said. “I can assure you that from a business perspective, the controversy this creates far outweighs the very small percentage of our business that these political ads make up.”
Zuckerberg also stated that he did not think it was the job of private companies to censor politicians and news, but Dorsey also stated his thoughts to that argument.
“This isn’t about free expression,” Zuckerberg said. “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.”
Dorsey tweeted that another reason for his decision is to stop the spread of fake information on social media. He said he does not want people to be able to say whatever they want to their audience just because they paid for it.
Twitter is an effective tool for spreading information, gaining support for politicians and gathering supporters, but Dorsey said that they have seen many social movements grow without political advertising. This ban could even the field for all people trying to promote a candidate or issue.
Otis Sanford, Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economic and Managerial Journalism at the University of Memphis, said he agrees with Twitter banning political ads as long as they can enforce it and it does not infringe on free speech.
“If they can effectively enforce it and people can still put their opinions out there without paying then I’m okay with it,” Sanford said.
As far as Facebook deciding to continue to allow political ads, Sanford said it’s their platform and they can decide what to do with it.
“It’s like a newspaper,” Sanford said. “A newspaper makes a decision about whether they want to publish something or not including ads. If newspapers took that position then everyone that wanted to put in an ad even in the Helmsman would be free to do so and the Helmsman would say they can’t tell people what to do, but they can because it’s their newspaper.”
Sanford said it seems like Facebook does not want to take the time and effort required to police this issue like Twitter has decided to do.