Twitter to Ban Political Ads Beginning Nov 22

“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.,” CEO and founder Jack Dorsey announced Wednesday

Jack Dorsey Twitter
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Twitter is banning all political ads globally beginning November 22, CEO and Jack Dorsey announced via the platform on Wednesday.

“We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned,” Dorsey wrote in a series of tweets.

“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people,” Dorsey added.

He explained the ban will address the “challenges to civic discourse” internet political ads present, including “machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes.” 

The ban encompasses candidate ads and issue ads. Ads encouraging people to register to vote will be permitted. Dorsey said Twitter will release its final policy on Nov. 15 and it will go into effect on Nov. 22.

Some exceptions will be made, including for ads supporting voter registration, Dorsey added.

Twitter’s ban comes two weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his platform would take a hands-off approach on political ads, including ones that may include misinformation.

“As a principle,” Zuckerberg said during his Oct. 17 speech at Georgetown University, “in a democracy, I believe people should decide what is credible, not tech companies.”

Zuckerberg’s comments were in response to the increasing calls from Facebook’s critics for it to curtail political ads. Most notably, 2020 presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has railed against Facebook for allowing political ads with misinformation to avoid fact-checking.

Zuckerberg, in a recent interview with Fox News, said he’d considered dropping political ads altogether, adding they make up a fraction of Facebook’s billions in annual ad revenue. But banning political ads would only favor incumbent politicians and candidates the media chose to cover, he argued. Zuckerberg also reiterated his stance that Facebook’s users, rather than the company itself, should decide what is and isn’t true in political ads.

It’s unclear how much of Twitter’s ad business stems from political ads. In terms of overall sales, Twitter’s ad revenue pales in comparison to Facebook; Twitter reported last week it made $824 million in Q3 revenue, while Facebook reported Wednesday it pulled in $17.7 billion in third quarter revenue.

Unlike Zuckerberg, Dorsey said this isn’t a free speech issue. At Georgetown, Zuckerberg said Facebook’s decision to not fact-check political ads was based in part on the “American free speech tradition.” On Wednesday, Dorsey said “this isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach.”

He concluded: “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.”