Twitter Formalizes Political Ad Ban (Sort Of)
Last month Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey was lauded for announcing the social giant would “stop all political advertising on Twitter”. At the time Dorsey insisted the decision “isn’t about free expression, but about protecting democratic infrastructure.” Sounds noble enough, especially in contrast to the black hat wearing Facebook who’s been struggling with its own policy to take any political ad, regardless of truth or merit, in the name of free speech.
As it turns out making a clean break from all things political is easier said than done for Twitter. In a bit of a backtrack on Friday, Twitter announced it would take some political ads but not others. Ads from candidates, parties and PACs are banned, but individuals, corporations and non-profits may still pay to promote political messages. The fine line basically falls between candidates and causes. If you’re an advocacy group who wants to fight global warming by placing ads on Twitter that’s ok, but a Congressional candidate who supports global warming is a no go.
Some have expressed frustration at the apparent back track by Dorsey and Co, while others appreciate the flexibility instead of just a hard no. In my mind there’s a little bit of economic reality driving this decision. Candidates are more identifiable through their Twitter handles and hashtags, so they can post for publicity without needing to buy ads. Therefore banning candidates won’t cost Twitter too much. On the other hand our example global warming advocacy group probably doesn’t have much of a Twitter following, which means it needs to buy ads. Allowing these guys to still advertise keeps that market intact for Twitter.
Double standard or deft business move? You decide.