SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter will stop accepting political ads, the company’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, announced Wednesday.
“We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Dorsey tweeted. “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,” he added.
The announcement comes amid intense scrutiny of Silicon Valley’s handling of political ads. Social media companies, particularly Facebook, have been criticized for allowing politicians to run false ads.
Dorsey’s comments puts him at odds with senior Facebook executives, including Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, who have vigorously defended Facebook’s policy of not fact-checking political ads.
In a speech in Washington D.C. earlier this month, Zuckerberg said, “Given the sensitivity around political ads, I’ve considered whether we should stop allowing them altogether. From a business perspective, the controversy certainly isn’t worth the small part of our business they make up. But political ads are an important part of voice — especially for local candidates, up-and-coming challengers, and advocacy groups that may not get much media attention otherwise. Banning political ads favors incumbents and whoever the media covers.”
Some of Facebook’s own employees took issue with that reasoning in a letter sent to Zuckerberg and other company leaders that was reported by The New York Times earlier this week. They wrote, “high-profile politicians can out-spend new voices and drown out the competition” on the platform.
In a lengthy series of tweets about Twitter’s decision, Dorsey continued, “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.”
“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. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”
Dorsey said Twitter will also stop running issue ads, which Twitter characterizes as ads that “advocate for or against legislative issues of national importance.”
In his speech in Washington, Zuckerberg cited issue ads as another reason not to ban political ads, “Even if we wanted to ban political ads, it’s not clear where we’d draw the line. There are many more ads about issues than there are directly about elections. Would we ban all ads about healthcare or immigration or women’s empowerment?”
Dorsey said the company would share more details about the policy on November 15th and would stop accepting political ads on November 22nd.
Earlier this month former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign wrote to Twitter and other social media companies asking them to stop running an ad that falsely accused Biden of corruption over his role in Ukraine policy during the Obama administration.