This Surprising Decision Affects Us All…
Just a few days ago, Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and CEO of Twitter, announced the company’s decision to stop allowing political advertisements of any kind.
In a series of Tweets, Jack said…
“We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons…”
“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…”
“We considered stopping only candidate ads, but issue ads present a way to circumvent. Additionally, it isn’t fair for everyone but candidates to buy ads for issues they want to push. So we’re stopping these too…”
“A final note. 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. It’s worth stepping back in order to address.” (@jack, Oct. 30)
With important and anxiously expected elections coming up in both the UK and the US, this decision was a bit of a bombshell.
And as you might expect, the response was swift and varied with strong opinions on both sides.
Some people applauded the decision, saying they hoped Facebook and YouTube would follow suit…
Hillary Clinton herself Tweeted that it was “the right thing to do for democracy in America and all over the world.” (@HillaryClinton, Oct. 30)
Others chimed in that they wished he’d get rid of bot accounts and spammers instead.
And still others said this was just one more way that Twitter would be influencing elections.
After all, now all political Tweets are at the mercy of their algorithm, so the company could technically boost one party’s Tweets or silence another party’s candidate if they so wished…
And without ads, there’s nothing those entities could do to counter the effects of suppression.
Is This A Good Thing?
Did Jack Dorsey heroically turn down money so he could protect the fine people of Twitter from ad rhetoric they couldn’t handle?
Or is this an attempt to control the flow of ads and information the public should have access to?
Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO for Facebook, shared his opinion: “In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news.”
So where do you stand on this controversy?
It’s a multi-faceted issue, that’s for sure.
On the one hand, ads – even potentially misleading ads – could influence voters one way or another, sure.
(But that’s the whole point of ads and media in general, right?)
On the other hand, we’re all adults here, and at least in the Western world, we have the freedom to review material presented to us and to make decisions about what we think is best.
That’s what voting is.
(Or at least what it’s supposed to be.)
Aren’t we capable of deciding what we do and don’t agree with even when the way it’s presented to us is a paid ad?
Or have we really become so dependent on others to do our thinking for us that we need to be protected in this way?
If it’s the latter, why aren’t we being protected from the ads for all the other pervasive ills in society?
If we’re not smart enough to make choices about political ads, then perhaps we should cut out the ads for alcohol, or junk food, or soda while we’re at it…
While this banning of ads might sound like a good thing on its face…
It’s actually one of those slippery slopes we need to be careful with.
Here’s why ads on social media matter during an election cycle.
With ads, a candidate can craft a message to say exactly what they want to say. The words are the exact words that they want to use to describe their feelings on a given issue.
Without ads, the only ways candidates can get their messages across are to…
Tweet The Message Themselves
This is pretty good, because again, they can say exactly what they want to say – provided it’s 280 characters or less.
But it’s also bad, because the lifespan of a Tweet is only about 15 minutes.
So users have to be following that candidate and online in that timeframe, or they have to specifically go look at that candidate’s profile to see what they have to say.
They Can Rely On Their Followers To Retweet The Message
This is good, because, again, retweeting keeps the original message intact.
But it’s also bad because those retweets often come with commentary, and every single one of them can have its own subthread of replies.
Imagine trying to learn about a candidate from a bunch of scattered threads – it would be practically impossible.
Waiting For Others – Especially Influencers With Bigger Accounts – To Do Some Of The Heavy Lifting For You
These candidates can say what they want to say and then hope others in the space will also talk about their message, thus giving them the amplification they’re looking for.
But in that case, that carefully crafted message of what the candidate stands for is rephrased and spun again and again and again.
Instead of the exact words that they want to share with the populace…
It becomes a game of telephone where the biggest, loudest accounts get to share some semblance of what was actually said…
And the candidates who might have a smaller following won’t get heard – even though they might have the best ideas or the purest intentions for their constituency
Just think – if this kind of banning spreads to Facebook, YouTube, and then on to television and print media, elections will no longer be a challenge where the voting public gets to hear what they need to hear in order to make proper decisions…
Instead, they’ll be nothing more than a popularity contest of the worst kind.
We can no longer count on the information being presented to us.
Instead, we have to go and seek it out for ourselves.
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored