As the country prepares for a general election Twitter has made the surprising and bold announcement that it will be banning political advertising on the platform.
The move from Twitter comes after social media platforms have come under intense scrutiny over fake news, misleading advertising and pressure over bots being used in political campaigning.
Jack Dorsey, Twitter founder and CEO made the announcement and explained the decision in a Twitter thread.
@Jack tweeted “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.”
Twitter is the first platform to take such a stand. The approach differs dramatically from Facebook. Last week Facebook stated that they won’t fact check political advertising with Chief Exec Mark Zuckerberg stating that politicians have the right to free speech on the platform. This has led to criticism but it is clearly a difficult situation with no clear-cut answers.
Twitter appears to have taken a strong, decisive stance on the issue but in reality, political advertising makes up only a tiny proportion of its revenue. The cynical amongst us might conclude that this decision is predominantly about public relations.
This decision though does not mean that Twitter will become a politics free zone. It simply means that they won’t accept paid political posts. In the run up to the election we will certainly see politicians harnessing the power of social media with organic posts. Social media advisors and strategists will be in high demand by the political parties and there will be huge efforts to ensure messages and political content benefit from significant organic reach.
As digital marketers we will be watching the approach of the different parties closely and observing with interest how they utilise social media, paid and unpaid, to promote their parties in the run up to the election. One thing is certain, with an election taking place in a matter of weeks and in the busy run up to Christmas, politicians and their campaigners will need to work hard to cut through the Christmas noise to reach their voters.