Twitter ban on all political ads gets harsh criticism

Twitter announces ban on political advertising

Twitter has announced plans to ban all political advertising to stop the spread of misleading news on its social media platform.

Jack Dorsey, CEO for Twitter, said that the social media site will ban all political ads globally starting next month.


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He Tweeted social media companies give advertisers an unfair advantage in spreading ‘highly targeted, misleading messages.’

In a thread he said: “We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.

“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimised and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.’

In another tweet Mr Dorsey said: “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.

Meanwhile, the Electorial Reform Society (ERS) has slammed the Twitter ad ban as ‘window dressing’.

An ERS statement says: “Twitter has announced it will ban all political advertising worldwide. However, UK political ad spend on Twitter was less than £60,000 during the last General Election.”

The ERS say this ‘window dressing’ PR move does nothing to change the underlying fact UK electoral laws haven’t been updated since the year 2000.

The ERS are calling for legislation as soon as Parliament returns after the election to ‘close the loopholes’ and strengthen democratic integrity.

Willie Sullivan, Senior Director of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “Twitter’s move will make little difference to the overall picture: online campaigning – whether through sponsored posts or organic – has totally changed since our electoral law was written in 2000, and this election is wide open to ‘dark ads’, dodgy donations and disinformation.

“The problem is not sponsored political ads but the fact that social media is an unregulated wild west.

“Parties don’t have to break down social spend separately to print material, or report spending in real time. Nor do non-party campaigners have to reveal who is really behind or funding their materials.

“Foreign individuals can pump huge resources – financial or otherwise – into online campaigning with almost no oversight. Twitter’s PR stunt will do little to change this reality.

“When there is a need for change but voluntary efforts are not enough, we have to change the law.

“The last election saw parties spend £3.2m on Facebook alone – more than double the figure in 2015. Yet social media ads can be purchased with relative anonymity.

“It’s time to open up the dark ads – not through tech giants’ window-dressing ‘transparency’ tools but through a fully open online database of campaign ads.

“We have to start with bringing the rules on ‘imprints’ into line with printed materials.

“Voters should also know why they are being targeted with that online content. At present we face the real risk of foreign interference in a snap general election and voters being none the wiser.

“We need a code of conduct for online campaigning – with a firm commitment not to spread fake news or disinformation, and freedom for independent fact-checkers to flag dubious content.

‘Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.’

The timing means the ban will be in place in time for the UK snap election.

It follows criticism directed art Facebook over its controversial decision to exempt ads by politicians from third-party fact-checking.


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