Twitter bans political advertisement, says reach should not be bought but earned

Twitter bans political advertisement, says reach should not be bought but earned

- Twitter has banned political adverts, saying buying of political reach is undemocratic as it only favours rich politicians

- The reach of any post, Twitter says, should be earned by direct retweets and followership not by forcing it in people's feeds through buying

- New policies will be published on Friday, November 15, and will swing into effect on Friday, November 22

- Meanwhile, pressure has been mounting on Facebook to take down political ads but Mark Zuckerberg has declined

Twitter has announced that it will ban all political advertisements on the platform starting Friday, November 22.

Announcing the move on Wednesday, October 30, CEO Jack Dorsey said it was important that politicians earn their reach and not buy it.

Dorsey said purchasing reach was not different from forcing political messages on people and this has the capacity to influence voting patterns thus affecting millions of lives.

"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. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.

"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," Dorsey said in a statement.

While defending the new decision, Dorsey noted that it was not aimed at curtailing freedom of expression but it was a launchpad for regulating political advertising, a task he described as "very difficult to do".

"In addition, we need more forward-looking political ad regulation (very difficult to do). Ad transparency requirements are in progress, but not enough.

"The internet provides entirely new capabilities, and regulators need to think past the present day to ensure a level playing field," said the Twitter boss.

The decision was, however, on the other hand sharply criticised by US President Donald Trump's 2020 campaign brigade that termed it dumb.

Campaign manager Brad Parscale said the move will cost Twitter a lot of revenue but he was also quick to claim it was an attempt to silence Trump.

"Twitter just walked away from hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue, a very dumb decision for their stockholders. Will Twitter also be stopping ads from biased media outlets who will now run unchecked as they buy obvious political content meant to attack republicans?

"This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known," said Parscale.

The development has been seen to continue piling pressure on Facebook to follow suit but the platform's boss Mark Zuckerberg has remained firm that he is keen on championing for freedom of expression.

Zuckerberg further denied claims that Facebook was only interested in making money stating that political ads will by 2020 only account to about 0.5% of its revenue.

"I think there are good reasons for this. In a democracy, I don't think it's right for private companies to censor politicians or the news. And although I've considered whether we should not carry these ads in the past, and I’ll continue to do so, on balance so far I've thought we should continue.

"Ads can be an important part of voice - especially for candidates and advocacy groups the media might not otherwise cover so they can get their message into debates. And it's hard to define where to draw the line," Zuckerberg said in a detailed statement on Thursday, October 31.

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Meanwhile, earlier reported that politicians will now be treated specially on Facebook as the social medium said it would henceforth consider their posts as newsworthy items not open to fact-checking.

It added that it would treat such posts from politicians as messages that should be seen and heard. ( -> We have upgraded to serve you better.

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