Twitter Ban Political Ads, Will Politicians Turn To Twitter Influencers to Reach Voters?



On Wednesday, October 30, 2019, Twitter made the bold move to ban all political advertising from its platform.

This is a big move by Twitter and not an easy one to make. This decision could potentially cost billions of dollars in revenue.

Twitter potentially sacrificed hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in ad revenue by standing for something.

The move came just weeks after Facebook said it would not block false political advertising, arguing that it would violate its mission to promote free speech, even paid free speech.

"I think there are good reasons for this," Zuckerberg said about allowing false political ads to run on Facebook. "I don't think it's right for private companies to censor politicians and the news."

But Dorsey is taking the opposite approach.

"We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought," CEO Jack Dorsey said.

In a series of tweets, Dorsey highlighted some of the social media giant's concerns about allowing its ad platform to be used for political purposes.

"A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account," Dorsey said. "Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people."

Dorsey is concerned that Twitter could be used to impact election results. Hence, the new policy.

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So many people have applauded the move since the announcement, support has come from voices as diverse as the US-based campaign group Muslim Advocates, the Open Knowledge Foundation thinktank and the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

Madihha Ahussain, of Muslim Advocates, commended Dorsey for “acknowledging the serious problem of political misinformation and for not-so-subtly rebuking Facebook’s reckless political ad policy”.

The chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, Catherine Stihler, said Twitter’s decision was “very welcome” and called on Facebook to act on “growing demands for greater transparency”. She said: “It is imperative that we do not allow disinformation to blight this year’s UK general election, forthcoming elections across Europe, and next year’s US presidential election.”

Sorkin, writing in the New York Times, criticised Mark Zuckerberg for enabling the “crazy lies pumped into the water supply that corrupt the most important decisions we make together”. The screenwriter behind The Social Network, a film about Facebook’s early years, joined in a chorus of criticism of the site’s policy of explicitly allowing misinformation in political adverts.

“Right now, on your website, is an ad claiming that Joe Biden gave the Ukrainian attorney general a billion dollars not to investigate his son. Every square inch of that is a lie and it’s under your logo. That’s not defending free speech, Mark, that’s assaulting truth,” he wrote.

“You and I want speech protections to make sure no one gets imprisoned or killed for saying or writing something unpopular, not to ensure that lies have unfettered access to the American electorate.”

Despite the policy, there are some questions that need an answer. One such question is: Will Politicians pay Twitter Influencers to reach voters instead of running ads?"

The role of Social Media influencers on Politics cannot be underrated. In fact, with this new policy, it might become more significant.

Twitter influencers influence a large number of individuals. These influencers know how to draw a lot of attention. They have the ability to reach out to a big audience. Their fanbase is very loyal and their trust in the influencers is high.

Data from MuseFind shows 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement. A study by gen.video found that 33% said influencers are trusted sources when making shopping decisions, while only 17% trusted friends and family for shopping recommendations. 

If these influencers can influence people to make a purchase decision, then, they can influence voting decisions.

Using social media influencers will still allow politicians to reach voters which could impact election results unless there is a policy that stops Twitter influencers from promoting Politicians.

"These challenges will affect all internet communication, not just political ads," Dorsey tweeted Wednesday. "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."

Dorsey said that Twitter would announce its final policy regarding political advertising on Nov. 15. The company will begin enforcing its new policy on Nov. 22.

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