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Unlike Facebook, Twitter Bans Political Advertisements

A picture taken on October 1, 2019 in Lille shows the logo of mobile app Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Google and Messenger are displayed on a tablet. (Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP)
Unlike Facebook, Twitter Bans Political Advertisements
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The heads of two leading social media companies have very different ideas about paid advertisements supporting political candidates.

On Wednesday, Twitter’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jack Dorsey, said that the social media company would stop all political advertising. On the same day, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg again defended his company’s policy of permitting political advertisements. Zuckerberg faced questions on the subject from lawmakers on the House Financial Services Committee last week.

CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey
CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey

Twitter: message reach should be earned

In a series of tweets, Dorsey said Wednesday that internet advertising is effective for advertisers. But he warned: “That power brings significant risks to politics.”

Dorsey went on to say that his company believed that “political message reach should be earned not bought.”

He then described what he meant by “message reach.” Dorsey said:

“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet.” He then said, “Paying for reach removes that decision…forcing political messages on people.”

On Twitter, people can follow accounts and retweet messages they find notable. They also can receive paid messages from advertisers without their approval.

The Associated Press reports that Twitter will offer details about its policy on November 15. The ban on political advertising is to go into effect on November 22. The ban will cover ads in support of candidates and ones on political issues. But Twitter will permit advertisements that support voter registration.

The decision will have a comparatively small effect on Twitter’s earnings. The company's chief financial officer said that the company received less than $3 million from political advertising during the 2018 elections in the U.S.

Facebook: ads a part of political voice

The comments from Dorsey were very different from those of Facebook’s Zuckerberg. Facebook announced earlier this month that it would not fact check political ads. That means the company will not research whether or not the information presented in political ads is true or not. It also will not take down ads that may contain false information.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives for a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, on Facebook's impact on the financial services and housing sectors. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives for a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, on Facebook's impact on the financial services and housing sectors. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Zuckerberg faced tough questions about the policy while giving testimony to Congress. Facebook again defended its policy last week saying: “In a democracy, people should decide what is credible, not tech companies.”

Zuckerberg again spoke about the company’s decision Wednesday. He said, “Ads can be an important part of voice – especially for candidates and advocacy groups the media might not otherwise cover…”

The Facebook chief told shareholders that ads from politicians would account for less than .5 percent of the company’s income next year.

Facebook promised to deal with misinformation on its platform after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. At that time, Russian efforts to spread false information led to several investigations of foreign influence in American elections. Facebook has periodically taken down pages suspected of being linked to Russian misinformation efforts.

Many accounts with large numbers of followers on Twitter also are disabled because, the company says, they do not follow the service’s rules.

Other opinions

Some people consider Twitter’s policy of not permitting political ads to be better. Jascha Kaykas-Wolff heads marketing efforts at technology company Mozilla. He agrees with Twitter’s decision to ban political ads. “Accepting money to run ads that contain falsehoods isn’t the right thing to do for people,” he said.

Others say barring political ads will hurt political challengers who are not recognized by voters. Matt Shupe is a Republican political advisor who notes that advertising is an important way for a candidate to gain attention. He said, “If you’re a challenger, advertising allows you to make up that difference.”

Twitter’s ban on “issue ads” that support one side of a public debate are also a concern. Ryan Schleeter is a spokesman for the environmental group Greenpeace. He said he does not want to see companies able to run ads while “those who confront corporate power are censored.”

I’m Mario Ritter Jr.

Michelle Quinn reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional materials from Reuters and AP. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

advocacy –n. an effort to support a cause or proposal

challenger –n. a person who is competing against someone who holds already holds an office

confront –v. to oppose or challenge a person or a group in a forceful way

censor –v. to examine books, movies or other forms of communication in order to remove things that are considered harmful to society

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