Twitter to ban political ads in apparent swipe at Facebook

Social media companies face growing pressure to stop carrying ads that spread false information


Reuters October 31, 2019
PHOTO: FILE

NEW YORK: Twitter will ban political advertising on its platform next month, the company’s chief executive said on Wednesday, a move that won praise from Democrats and scorn from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

"We've made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally," said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a statement "We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought."

Analysts do not expect the ban, which takes effect on November 22, to significantly reduce Twitter’s business. Its shares fell 1.9 per cent in after-hours trading.

Social media companies, including Twitter rival Facebook, face growing pressure to stop carrying ads that spread false information that could steer elections.

Facebook has pledged efforts to deal with misinformation after Russian propaganda on the platform was seen to affect the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election, which was won by Trump, a Republican.

Facebook's Zuckerberg says company considered banning political ads

But Facebook made a decision to not fact-check ads run by politicians, drawing ire from Democratic candidates running in the 2020 presidential election such as former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“We appreciate that Twitter recognizes that they should not permit disproven smears, like those from the Trump campaign, to appear in advertisements on their platform,” said Bill Russo, deputy communications director for the Biden campaign, in an emailed statement.

Biden has faced attacks from Trump, offered without evidence, about the foreign business dealings of his son Hunter.

“It would be unfortunate to suggest that the only option available to social media companies to do so is the full withdrawal of political advertising, but when faced with a choice between ad dollars and the integrity of our democracy, it is encouraging that, for once, revenue did not win out,” said Russo.

Brad Parscale, who is running Trump’s re-election campaign, described Twitter’s move as an “attempt to silence conservatives” and “a very dumb decision” for the company’s shareholders.

“Will Twitter also be stopping ads from biased liberal media outlets that will now run unchecked as they buy obvious political content meant to attack Republicans,” Parscale said in a statement.

Twitter admits phone numbers meant for security used for ads

“This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known.”

A Twitter spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the company’s policy, saying it did not want to stifle political speech.

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