Twitter has announced a ban on all political advertising from its service, saying on Wednesday that social media companies give advertisers unfair advantage in proliferating highly targeted, misleading messages.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted the change, declaring that the company has realised “paying for reach” on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms “has significant ramifications” for civic discourse.
The majority of money spent on political advertising in the United States goes to television ads.
Twitter’s policy will start on November 22, with the full policy published by November 15.
Some exceptions will be allowed, including ads in support of voter registration.
“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” said Dorsey, on his own Twitter profile.
“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,” he added.
“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,” said Dorsey. “All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”
‘Level playing field’
Dorsey also called for lawmakers and regulators to work harder on new laws governing social media.
“We need more forward-looking political ad regulation (very difficult to do). Ad transparency requirements are progress, but not enough,” he tweeted. “The internet provides entirely new capabilities, and regulators need to think past the present day to ensure a level playing field.”
For its part, Facebook Inc has taken fire since it disclosed earlier in October that it will not fact-check ads by politicians or their campaigns, which could allow them to lie freely.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress last week that politicians have the right to free speech on Facebook, angering those who support stronger controls on what politicians can say online.
The issue suddenly arose in September when Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, refused to remove a misleading video ad from US President Donald Trump’s campaign that targeted former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate.
In response, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, another presidential hopeful, ran an ad on Facebook taking aim at its CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The ad falsely claimed that Zuckerberg endorsed Trump for re-election, acknowledging the deliberate falsehood as necessary to make a point.
Critics have called on Facebook to ban all political ads. This includes CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who recently called the policy of allowing lies “ludicrous” and advised the social media giant to sit out the 2020 election until it can figure out something better.