“We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Dorsey wrote in a tweet Wednesday.
Dorsey, in an 11-tweet thread, said the prohibition on political advertising — including candidate ads and issues ads — will go into effect Nov. 22. There will be a few exceptions, he added; for example, Twitter will still accept ads that support voter registration.
Twitter’s stock dipped as much as 3.5% in after-hours trading after Dorsey’s announcement.
The move by Twitter stands in contrast to the position taken by Facebook, which has defended its decision to not ban political ads that include false claims. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has couched the policy in the context of the company’s commitment to protecting free speech. Meanwhile, Facebook recently unveiled a series of new steps aimed at preventing interference by bad actors in elections, including more prominently labeling content rated false (or partly false) by third-party fact-checkers and also banning ads that suggest voting is useless or that urge people not to vote.
Coincidentally or not, Dorsey posted the announcement about Twitter’s decision to end political ads just as Facebook was reporting its third-quarter 2019 earnings.
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“This isn’t about free expression,” Dorsey wrote. “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.”
Dorsey appeared to subtweet Facebook’s position on political advertising, writing in one post, “[I]t‘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!'”
Facebook’s policy of running any political ad — even if they include falsehoods — has been blasted by a group of its own employees, as well as politicos including former VP Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who accused the company of operating a “disinformation-for-profit machine.” The issue came to the fore after Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign placed Facebook ads that falsely stated that Biden coerced Ukrainian officials into halting a corruption probe into his son, Hunter.
In his post, Dorsey called on regulators to adopt more “forward-looking” political ad regulations, which he acknowledged is “very difficult to do.”
“Ad transparency requirements are progress, but not enough. The internet provides entirely new capabilities, and regulators need to think past the present day to ensure a level playing field,” the CEO wrote.
Separately, in August Twitter announced that it would no longer accept advertising from state-controlled news media outlets, which came after China’s Xinhua bought ads attacking pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters.
Twitter and Facebook were in the hot seat after the 2016 U.S. presidential election for their roles in spreading misinformation planted by Russian operatives in a bid to interfere with the outcome. Subsequently, Twitter banned ads from two Russian media organizations. The company also said it would more clearly mark political ads and disclose how much money individual buyers spent on such ads.