Twitter to Ban Political Advertising Globally, CEO Dorsey Says

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Jack Dorsey. /Courtesy Photo
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AT Team

Twitter Inc. announced Wednesday that it will no longer take political ads.

In a series of posts, via Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey’s account, the new policy that is set to be published on November 15, will go into effect on November 22, 2019.

“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 said.

“Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale,” he added.

We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons…🧵

As tech companies have moved to counter the spread of fake news and misinformation after the 2016 US election, they have been forced to make choices about whether legitimate political actors should be given extra leeway. In June, Twitter said it would label but not delete tweets from politicians who violated its rules.

Twitter’s decision puts it apart from other tech companies that have resisted calls to stop taking political ads. Critics cite the powerful micro-targeting capabilities of tech platforms — which allow ads to be tailored to niche audiences and interest groups — as being susceptible to abuse, particularly when spreading false or misleading claims.

Facebook is currently embroiled in a debate over its decision to allow political campaigns to push ads containing misinformation. The company has said it does not think it should be the arbiter of political speech, though it does stop companies and political committees from using false information in ads.

Dorsey touched on the conflict between hosting paid political ads and trying to fight the spread of misinformation.

“For instance, it‘s not credible for us to say: ‘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!'” Dorsey tweeted.

He also offered some details on the company’s thought process, noting that it considered only eliminating ads from candidates but felt that left open loopholes for issue-based ads.

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