Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey said late today that his monolithic social media platform is banning all political ads starting tomorrow. This is in stark contrast to one of Twitter’s biggest rivals, Facebook, which is facing a spate of negative criticism for going in the other direction and promoting a laissez faire attitude towards political advertising.
Dorsey made the announcement on his own Twitter account today, saying that political tweets for and against political parties and candidates are something to be earned by trust and commitment, not simply sold to the highest bidder. Dorsey further stated that fake news and virulent partisanship are a threat to civic discourse and need to be discouraged and banished whenever possible. In another tweet, Dorsey wrote that democracy may not be ready to handle the ramifications of the sophisticated techniques being used on social media today to sway opinions and sway voters.
The company told reporters that political advertising makes up an extremely small part of its overall profit.
Like other social media platforms, Twitter has always allowed political ads in the past — but began curtailing them somewhat after the last presidential election due to suspicions of foreign interference and the possible placement of egregious propaganda. Twitter created a political ad data base three years ago for all posts on its platform. Last year the company refused to post ads from foreign governments and their media departments after it was discovered that misinformation about the Hong Kong protests were being posted by a Chinese government agency from mainland China.
Dorsey’s move is likely to put more pressure on Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, who has said that freedom of expression is too important to try and censor, even in political advertising that may be slanting the truth or telling outright lies. He called political ads ‘newsworthy’ in and of themselves, deserving of the same treatment as any other news event.