“This Isn’t About Free Expression”


Twitter logo, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons…

A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.

While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.

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.

These challenges will affect ALL internet communication, not just political ads. 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.

For instance, 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! 😉”

We considered stopping only candidate ads, but issue ads present a way to circumvent. Additionally, it isn’t fair for everyone but candidates to buy ads for issues they want to push. So we’re stopping these too.

We’re well aware we‘re a small part of a much larger political advertising ecosystem.

Some might argue our actions today could favor incumbents. But we have witnessed many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow.

In addition, we need more forward-looking political ad regulation (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.

We’ll share the final policy by 11/15, including a few exceptions (ads in support of voter registration will still be allowed, for instance).

We’ll start enforcing our new policy on 11/22 to provide current advertisers a notice period before this change goes into effect.

A final note. 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. It’s worth stepping back in order to address.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey explaining, in a series of tweets last night, the company’s decision to ban all political advertising on Twitter, staring on November 22, 2019.

Twitter to ban all political advertising (BBC)

Previously: What Do You Get The Man Who Has Everything?

#Twitter Founder Does Not Think Ireland Sucks

Pic: Bloomberg

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18 thoughts on ““This Isn’t About Free Expression”

    1. scottser

      they allow all speech. if you disagree with right wing hate speech then call it out and tackle it on its own terms. personally i think this is quite mature of twitter, hopefully others follow suit.

        1. Cian

          Because otherwise you have censorship.
          And if you have censorship you need to decide what to censor.
          And then you don’t have freedom of speech.
          The censor decides what can be discussed.

          1. Mick

            But your censor isn’t deciding what can be discussed everywhere, or stopping the neo-Nazi from saying what they want to say. They’re just stopping them discussing it on their platform. There are plenty of platforms from which neo-Nazis can say what they will.

          2. george

            That is not correct, Cian. Refusing to ” talk to neo-Nazis on their terms” is not censorship.

            Nor would it even be censorship for a company to refuse to publish neo-Nazi content.

        2. scottser

          If a neo Nazi, or anyone else has an opinion that is objectionable and based on a hatred of others it is best to hold those opinions up to scrutiny. Their bulpoo stinks so much it’s only fair they get to smell it too.

  1. Jeffrey

    I’ve yet to see a political on Twitter but I agree with their decision, I systematically block any “sponsored” content in my stream anyway!

    Like the snipe at Facebook also, The Zuck really put his foot in it last congress hearing.

    1. Clampers Outside

      The Congress people asking questions of him whereas often as not a complete joke, in fairness… one in particular was practically blaming Zuck for all the ills in American society…. really laughable childish nonsense.

    2. ian-oh

      Zuckerberg is too damaged and disturbed a person to wield such power.

      He deserves literally everything that happens to his group of companies and if that means breaking them up, good.

  2. martco

    hahahahahahahaaaaaaa :)

    Varadker doorstopped about this earlier on the wireless, the panic in his voice was just fantastic to hear!


  3. V

    What a load of patronising Silicone Valley PTA aren’t we just wonderful people really tripe talk

    It means nothing when;
    And I’m only using these as examples, and not to make a political point, so don’t go scratching them out for a fight

    But Trump’ doesn’t have to spend a cent to say Hi to his 66,000,000 plus followers
    Nor the lad he took over the Presidency from – Obama whenever he wants to have a word with his 109,000,000 followers

    If Katy Perry wants to promote a gig she can
    For Free
    To 108,000,000 plus people
    For nothing

    So too can Katy Hopkins who has a platform where 1,000,000 receive her tweets
    for free

    Paying for reach my @vanessa_foran

    Save the grand talk for your Vanity Fair Establishment Profile Jack

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