In a long tweet thread on Wednesday, company CEO Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter will no longer allow political advertising on its platform across the globe. The decision is based on ‘a few reasons,’ according to Dorsey, the main point being that ‘we believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.’ The decision comes amid growing concerns over the role social media platforms have in how political messages — and related misinformation and propaganda — spread.
The 2016 Facebook election debacle brought popular attention to the use of social media as a tool of manipulation, something used by various governments to spread false information, sow division during already tense elections, target propaganda at certain groups of people using hot topics like religion, and more.
In the years since that disclosure, we’ve seen steady reports from big social media platforms about the termination of accounts, pages, and more due to activity suggesting foreign meddling in political matters. These campaigns have been linked to various governments, countries, and political groups, including ones operating out of Iran and Russia.
In his announcement today, Dorsey said that political ads on the Internet ‘present entirely new challenges to civic discourse,’ including issues ranging from the spreading of misinformation to the rise of deep fakes. This is happening ‘at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.’
Dorsey says that Twitter first considered only banning political candidate ads, but that still leaves potential problems related to ‘issue ads.’ Beyond that, Dorsey says such a restriction wouldn’t be fair to candidates, who would solely be left out of the political advertising market.
Twitter plans to share its final policy on the matter by November 15, and Dorsey notes that there will be select exceptions, one example being an exception for ads related to voter registration.