Twitter Bans Political Advertisements Amid Facebook Scrutiny

Jack Dorsey speaks during a press event at CES 2019 - Getty-H 2019
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"We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought," CEO Jack Dorsey said Wednesday.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday announced that his company will stop accepting paid political advertisements and issue advertisements, unlike rival Facebook, which has attracted scrutiny for not fact-checking campaign ads.

"We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought," the exec wrote on Twitter. "Why? A few reasons. A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money. 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 the company will announce a "final policy" on political ads by Nov. 15, including plans for "a few exceptions," including ads that promote voter registration. "We’ll start enforcing our new policy on 11/22 to provide current advertisers a notice period before this change goes into effect," he said.

Twitter's current policies allow political advertising, but note that "in addition to Twitter Ads policies, all political content must comply with applicable laws regarding disclosure and content requirements, eligibility restrictions, and blackout dates for the countries where they advertise."

Facebook has faced a tremendous amount of blowback from citizens, politicians and media executives alike for allowing political advertisements on the platform that contain falsehoods, including an ad run by Donald Trump's campaign that focuses on Ukraine. (Joe Biden's presidential campaign called for the ad to be removed, which it wasn't.)

CNN president Jeff Zucker suggested at a conference last week that Facebook should stop accepting political ads altogether. "Maybe they should just sit out this election and not take any political advertising until they can get it right," he said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled on Oct. 23 about his company's political advertising policies at a congressional hearing. Freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) pressed Zuckerberg on whether she could run an advertisement that falsely claims that congressional Republicans support the Green New Deal.

In his announcement Wednesday, Dorsey said the decision is not a First Amendment one. "This isn’t about free expression," he 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. It’s worth stepping back in order to address."

Dorsey also looked to Washington, saying that "we need more forward-looking political ad regulation," which he said is "very difficult to do."