“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Dorsey said.
While it’s not totally clear how broad those exceptions will be, it sounds like the ban will apply to ads endorsing candidates and ads advocating a position on political issues.
Dorsey said the company will share the final policy by November 15, and that it will start enforcing that policy on November 22.
“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,” he wrote. “All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”
So why not continue accepting ads while trying to stamp out misinformation? He argued that the company “needs to focus our efforts on the root problems, without the additional burden and complexity taking money brings.” (A blanket policy could also help Twitter avoid the headache and controversy of making these determinations on a case-by-case basis.)
This comes after Facebook, in particular, has faced heavy criticism around its refusal to fact-check political advertising (even as it took steps to fight election-related misinformation elsewhere), with Facebook employees writing an open letter objecting to this stance.
At the same time, one of the ads prompting the recent controversy — in which the Trump campaign promoted a conspiracy theory about Joe Biden — also ran on YouTube and Twitter. (It also ran on some TV networks, although CNN refused to air it.)
So even through the discussion has focused on Facebook, the broader questions of permissiveness and responsibility are ones that all the major internet platforms have to face.
The idea that Facebook should just ban all political ads is one that’s been floated by a number of critics, including our own Josh Constine. Before today, that might have seemed like an extreme or unrealistic step. Suddenly, it seems much more possible.
Dorsey didn’t mention Facebook by name in his tweets, but he seemed to allude to the company’s position when he wrote, “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! 😉’”