WASHINGTON (AFP) – Twitter will stop accepting political advertising globally on its platform, the company said, responding to growing concerns over misinformation from politicians on social media.
Chief Executive Jack Dorsey tweeted that 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”.
But Social media behemoth Facebook looks unlikely to follow Twitter’s lead, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg holding to his line that he would let political figures speak freely, and count on voters to judge truthfulness.
“In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news,” Zuckerberg said in an earnings call with analysts, the transcript of which he posted on Facebook.
Dorsey said Twitter’s new policy, details of which will be unveiled next month and enforced from November 22, would ban ads on political issues as well as from candidates.
“We considered stopping only candidate ads, but issue ads present a way to circumvent,” he said. “Additionally, it isn’t fair for everyone but candidates to buy ads for issues they want to push. So we’re stopping these too.”
Dorsey said the company took the action to head off potential problems from “machine learning-based optimisation of messaging and micro-targetting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes”.
Twitter’s move comes in contrast to Facebook’s policy that allows political speech and ads to run without fact-checking.
Zuckerberg has said political advertising is not a major source of revenue but he believes it is important to allow everyone a “voice,” and banning political ads would favour incumbents.
Ads were important to candidates and groups the media wouldn’t cover, he said. And it would be hard to know where to draw the line, he said: “Would we really block ads for important political issues like climate change or women’s empowerment?”
Dorsey said he disagreed with Zuckerberg’s assessment.
“We have witnessed many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow,” he added.
“This is the right thing to do for democracy in America and all over the world,” 2016 United States (US) Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted.
Twitter’s Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal said the move would have little financial impact.