Twitter backfires on Facebook’s “hands off stance” by banning all political ads on their platform.
Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, spoke out recently and said that political ads can be misleading and present challenges to society.
Dorsey tweeted, “We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought”.
This is has struck up a lot of discussion on campus between both students and faculty. Alexander Stephenson ’21 is currently doing research on political communication on social media.
“I think Twitter’s decision to ban political ads is extremely dangerous for the future of politics. The main goal for people in politics is to improve political participation right now. There have been disputes around Twitter’s algorithm censoring people from the right wing, and in turn, creating one big echo chamber on Twitter. The studies do not provide any evidence of that, however, they do show that there are more liberal users than conservative users on Twitter. When it comes to improving political participation, there is a relationship between seeing and sharing political news on social media and political participation,” said Stephenson.
An immediate response to this decision came from the economy after Twitter’s stock dropped over 1% after Twitter made their announcement.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, made a decision before Twitter’s that essentially allows any political ads to be shown on their platform without fact checking.
Vice President for Planning and Chief of Staff at Alma College, Elizabeth Hall, also has a strong opinion on the issue.
“I think there are extremes right now that are going on. Twitter has taken the position that we are not going to do any political advertising at all, and Facebook has taken the position as we are going to accept all paid advertising and not do any effort to fact check. I think there is probably a middle ground, and I would prefer to see companies go there,” said Hall.
Since a lot of social media is made up by younger users, there is worry that these recent decisions will affect political decisions and beliefs that they have.
“Again, seeing and sharing politics directly leads to more political participation. This is especially true with the younger generations. The generations that are growing up in the age of social media will be the most affected because this ban limits the amount of exposure young people have to learning about political dilemmas. If our goal is to conserve our sense of democracy, we should not censor political ads, instead we should encourage them,” said Stephenson.
With a background in marketing and as a current marketing professor on campus, Hall also sees this concern for the younger population.
“I worry that Twitter has taken this positon because there as so many, in particular young adults, on Twitter that may be one of the primary means that they have of keeping up with what is going on in the world. Do they then miss an opportunity to find out what different political candidates are advocating and will we then lose some momentum in terms of voting if they are not engaged in the presidential campaigns, particularly? I think they are important constituents, obviously, we want more students voting and we want them engaged in the politics of the country,” said Hall.
Another concern on campus and nationally is whether this policy is going to be permanent or not.
“I don’t think this ban will be permanent. I don’t know the cause of the ban, but I know limiting political speech is not something that usually goes over well with the American people. If it were a permanent ban, I think Facebook may transition to a predominantly political venue for people. That would be worst-case scenario, as we know how questionable Facebook’s algorithm is. Facebook would definitely be a wild place too, because as of now they allow politicians to lie in their ads. It would definitely be interesting,” said Stephenson.
The future of social media and politics is unknown as the 2020 presidential election continues.
Elizabeth Hall’s preference of, “paid political advertising with fact checking”, would be the obvious middle ground to these extremes but for now, that does not seem to be the solution for these social media CEO’s. Whether either of these policies are the best for the future of social media or not, it has surely caused an uproar of debate in the nation.