The CEOs of the two most popular social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, have picked sides on the grounds of political ads. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday announced a major change in the company's policy to soon ban all political ads on the platform across the globe. The move was instantly compared to Facebook, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg had a contrast opinion on the matter.
Facebook has been facing a lot of criticism over its decision to allow political ads on the platform, including the ones that advertise misinformation. But Zuckerberg stood firm ground defending the company's decision to host all kinds of political ads on its platform. Dorsey, through his announcement, proved it doesn't have to be a tough call.
"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 tweeted to his 4.3 million followers on Wednesday. "Political message reach should be earned, not bought."
Twitter's new policy to ban all political ads, with certain exceptions like voter registrations, will be released in full detail on November 15 and go into effect on November 22. While the details are still awaited, Dorsey clarified that the change affects political candidates and advertises on political matters.
Facebook, on the other hand, has turned a blind eye to political matters by ruling out fact-checking its political ads. This didn't sit well with a lot of people, including Congress leaders and some of the company employees who strongly opposed the policy. Zuckerberg continues to defend how the company manages political content on its platform. In fact, he noted that political ads are important for free speech, and a way to balance out for the shortage of media coverage for certain candidates.
"I don't think it's right for private companies to censor political ads or the news. Would we really want to block ads for important political issues like climate change or women's empowerment?" Zuckerberg said, according to the Wired.
Dorsey called out Facebook's hypocrisy without mentioning the social media giant by name in his tweets. He wrote: "It's not credible for us to say: 'We're working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad...well...they can say whatever they want!'."
You can read all Dorsey's tweets in the thread embedded below:
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…?— jack ??? (@jack) October 30, 2019
To recall, Facebook refused to remove a video posted by Trump's 2020 re-election campaign, which basically ran a conspiracy theory involving Democratic front-runner Joe Biden. In a protest against it, Senator Elizabeth ran a paid ad on Facebook, which claimed Zuckerberg endorsed Trump for re-election.
"When profit comes up against protecting democracy, Facebook chooses profit," Warren said.
While Twitter's big move has certainly attracted applause, some pointed out that it doesn't put a financial burden on the micro-blogging platform. Between Facebook and Twitter, the latter is not only much smaller in terms of the user base (126 million vs 1.63 billion), it also takes a much smaller share in the revenue generated through political ads.
Twitter's chief financial officer, Ned Segal, said that the company made less than $3 million from political ads in the 2018 cycle. In the case of Facebook, the Democratic candidates for Trump have spent a total of $32 million on Facebook advertisements so far this year. Clearly, the difference in figures is massive, but Segal said the decision "was based on principle, not money."
Trump's political campaign wasn't too happy with Twitter's decision and said that the company is turning its back on a lot of money, NPR reported.
"This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives, since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known," said Brad Parscale, Trump's political campaign manager.
However, Twitter managed to get a lot of praise from the Democrats, including Hilary Clinton, who praised Twitter's move and asked Facebook to reconsider its stance.
But in this war of words and policies, is the bigger problem of political discourse solved. Clearly not. Twitter's blanket ban is the plain and simple solution it could have employed, but it isn't the answer to all problems. Facebook's ignorance towards misleading political ads is surely not helping in any case. The answer does lie somewhere in the middle and it's overwhelming that such influential giants haven't figured it all out yet.