Twitter bans all political ads, in sharp contrast to Facebook

[Twitter has announced it will stop running political ads worldwide.
(Loic Venance / AFP/Getty Images)

Chief Executive Jack Dorsey wrote in a Twitter thread that online political ads presented “entirely new challenges to civic discourse”

OCT. 30, 2019 1:34 PM

Twitter Inc. founder and Chief Executive Jack Dorsey announced Wednesday his social media company — in pointed contrast to Facebook Inc. — would stop running political advertising worldwide.

In a long thread of Twitter messages, he wrote that online political ads presented “entirely new challenges to civic discourse,” including “machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”

The announcement comes as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faces scrutiny over his company’s stated position of allowing political advertising on its platform without any form of fact-checking, as well as allowing political candidates impunity from the normal mechanisms of content moderation on ads on the social media platform.

Twitter, a favorite platform of President Trump, updated its policies in June to say it would label — but not remove — tweets from government officials that broke its bullying and harassment rules. Twitter’s rule applies to what it calls verified leaders, representatives and candidates with more than 100,000 followers on the platform, though it says there are cases, such as “direct threats of violence or calls to commit violence against an individual,” in which it might take down an official’s tweet.

Dorsey said Wednesday the official Twitter policy reflecting the updated rules banning political advertising worldwide would be public by Nov. 15, and would be enforced starting Nov. 22.

In an indirect response to Zuckerberg, whose arguments in favor of allowing political advertising on Facebook have emphasized the importance of free speech and expression in the political discourse, Dorsey ended his thread by saying: “This isn’t about free expression. 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.”

The issue gained prominence in September when Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, refused to remove a misleading video ad from President Trump’s campaign that targeted former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate.

In response, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another presidential hopeful, ran an ad on Facebook taking aim at Zuckerberg. The ad falsely claimed that Zuckerberg endorsed Trump for reelection, acknowledging the deliberate falsehood as necessary to make a point.

Critics have called on Facebook to ban all political ads. This includes CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who recently called the policy of allowing lies ludicrous and advised the social media giant to sit out the 2020 election until it could figure out something better.

This story is developing and will be updated. The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.