Twitter will ban all political advertising next month.
Twitter will ban all political advertising next month.

Twitter takes step Facebook refused

WHILE Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg refuses to even fact-check claims made by politicians in paid advertising on the social media site, rival platform Twitter has announced it will ban political advertising altogether.

In a thread on the microblogging site, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey explained the reasons behind the move.

He said the decision was due to the hyper specific targeting internet advertising allows, which although being great for advertisers (and the social media platforms whose revenue it boosts), was too powerful to allow it to be used for political means.

"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," Mr Dorsey said.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey doesn’t agree with rival social media boss Mark Zuckerberg on political advertising.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey doesn’t agree with rival social media boss Mark Zuckerberg on political advertising.

He also took the opportunity to take a few shots at Mr Zuckerberg, who has recently come under fire, including from his own staff, for refusing to fact-check the claims of politicians made in advertisements on his social media platform.

Mr Dorsey was also quick to criticise Mr Zuckerberg after the free speech lecture he gave at Georgetown University earlier this month, saying there was a "major gap and flaw" in his arguments.

"We talk a lot about speech and expression and we don't talk about reach enough, and we don't talk about amplification, and reach and amplification was not represented in that speech," Mr Dorsey said shortly after Mr Zuckerberg's lecture.

Mr Dorsey also accused Mr Zuckerberg of engaging in "revisionist history" by implying he was inspired to start Facebook after seeing students on his university campus disillusioned by the 2003 invasion of Iraq but feeling they had no voice.

In reality Facebook grew out of an earlier site that almost got him expelled from Harvard called FaceMash, which was used to rate his female classmates at one of the world's top universities by attractiveness.

Mr Dorsey said Twitter's decision to ban political advertising went back to the concerns over reach and amplification that Mr Zuckerberg failed to address.

"We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought," Mr Dorsey said, adding that earned reach was more indicative of user engagement.

"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.

"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," Mr Dorsey said.

RELATED: Facebook boss unable to answer 'simple yes or no' questions

While paying for reach of political advertising is a powerful tool during election campaigns, they certainly don't guarantee results.

At this year's federal election, mining magnate and former politician Clive Palmer spent $60 million on advertising but failed to pick up a single seat.

Clive Palmer spent up big to get his party seats at the last federal election but didn’t see much return on investment.
Clive Palmer spent up big to get his party seats at the last federal election but didn’t see much return on investment.

Following the election, Mr Palmer pivoted his message in an attempt to take credit for the surprise Coalition victory, saying his predominantly anti-Labor ad blitz wasn't to secure seats for his party but because he had "decided to polarise the electorate".

One of the reasons Mark Zuckerberg gave for not banning political advertising is that doing so may favour incumbents, which Mr Dorsey also addressed as a concern.

"Some might argue our actions today could favour incumbents. But we have witnessed many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow."

The BlackLivesMatter and MeToo movements, as well as the Arab Spring, are among a number that gained significant momentum through social media, with little to no advertising behind them.

But while Twitter is a sizeable platform, it does not even come close to the power and reach of Facebook, which has billions of active users logging on every day.

Mr Dorsey said Twitter's new policy will be shared publicly on November 15 before coming into effect a week later.

Do you think Twitter has made the right decision? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


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