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Twitter to ban political ads, Facebook to continue

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that the reach of such messages "should be earned, not bought". Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes it is not right for private companies to censor politicians or the news

(L) Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg (R)

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced Wednesday that the platform would ban all political advertising with effect from November 22, 2019. However, Twitter has allowed a few exceptions (ads in support of voter registration will still be allowed, for instance).

Explaining the reason behind this move, Dorsey said that the reach of such messages "should be earned, not bought".

“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,” Dorsey added.

On the other hand, Twitter’s rival Facebook will continue with political ads. In an earnings call, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “Right now, the content debate is about political ads. Should we block political ads with false statements? Should we block all political ads? Google, YouTube and most internet platforms run these same ads, most cable networks run these same ads, and of course national broadcasters are required by law to run them by FCC regulations. I think there are good reasons for this. In a democracy, I don't think it's right for private companies to censor politicians or the news. And although I've considered whether we should not carry these ads in the past, and I’ll continue to do so, on balance so far I've thought we should continue.”

“Ads can be an important part of voice -- especially for candidates and advocacy groups the media might not otherwise cover so they can get their message into debates. And it's hard to define where to draw the line. Would we really block ads for important political issues like climate change or women's empowerment? Instead, I believe the better approach is to work to increase transparency,” he added.

On the call, Zuckerberg said the company estimates ads from politicians will be less than 0.5% of its revenue next year.

“That's not why we're doing this. To put this in perspective, the FTC fine that these same critics said wouldn't be enough to change our incentives was more than 10x bigger than this. The reality is that we believe deeply that political speech is important and should be able to be heard, and that's what’s driving us,” Zuckerberg said.

He also defended Facebook’s decision to allow ads that contain false information.

“Some people accuse us of allowing speech because they think all we care about is making money, and that’s wrong,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “I can assure you that from a business perspective, the controversy this creates far outweighs the very small percentage of our business that these political ads make up.”

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