On Wednesday, Twitter CEO and founder Jack Dorsey announced a massive change to the ad policies for the news platform, and it's especially relevant as the 2020 presidential election nears. Twitter will soon ban all political ads globally moving forward. That means your experience on the social media platform could be a little different in the coming months, depending on how politically involved you are.
Dorsey announced the news in a Twitter thread. He explained,
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...[It's] best to focus our efforts on the root problems, without the additional burden and complexity taking money brings. Trying to fix both means fixing neither well, and harms our credibility.
He elaborated on that notion of credibility later in the thread, explaining, "It‘s not credible for us to say: 'We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well...they can say whatever they want!'"
Twitter will unveil its complete policy on the matter on Nov. 15, and there will be a few exceptions to it, including allowing ads that support and aid voter registration. The policy will officially be put into place on Nov. 22.
Dorsey concluded, "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."
To be clear, this new policy will not affect user-written Tweets that involve political matters, even if those Tweets are written by politicians running for office. So for example, Donald Trump's official Twitter account will not be impacted by this policy. However, the Twitter account for his 2020 presidential campaign (as well as the Twitter accounts for the other 2020 presidential campaigns) will no longer be able to pay for politically-motivated ads to reach users on the platform.
So if you use Twitter on a daily basis, you won't see a lot of the same promoted political Tweets you might have noticed in the past. With that said, you should keep in mind that this change won't go into effect for another few weeks. On the flip side, if you visit other social media platforms like Facebook, they will still contain political ads. In fact, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently defended the company's ad policy after accusations that it allows some politicians to spread misinformation. "In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news," he said during an earnings call on Oct. 30, the Washington Post reported. Facebook's VP of Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg, explained the ad policy in a Sept. 24 Facebook newsroom page:
We rely on third-party fact-checkers to help reduce the spread of false news and other types of viral misinformation, like memes or manipulated photos and videos. We don’t believe, however, that it’s an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny. That’s why Facebook exempts politicians from our third-party fact-checking program ... However, when a politician shares previously debunked content including links, videos and photos, we plan to demote that content, display related information from fact-checkers, and reject its inclusion in advertisements.
If you want to learn more about the reasoning behind Twitter's decision to ban all political advertising, or about why Dorsey believes "political message reach should be earned, not bought," you can read his Twitter thread in full.