Twitter announced Wednesday that it will no longer take political ads, a major step as tech companies work to deal with misinformation ahead of the 2020 election.
The ban will go into place in November.
In a series of tweets, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey laid out the company’s reasoning, focusing on the downside of political advertising when combined with digital advertising.
“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,” Dorsey tweeted.
“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,” Dorsey added.
As tech companies have moved to counter the spread of fake news and misinformation after the 2016 election, they have been forced to make choices about whether legitimate political actors should be given extra leeway. In June, Twitter said it would label but not delete tweets from politicians who violated its rules.
Twitter’s decision puts it apart from other tech companies that have resisted calls to stop taking political ads. Critics site the powerful micro-targeting abilities of tech platforms — which allow ads to be tailored to niche audiences and interest groups — as being susceptible to abuse, particularly when spreading false or misleading claims.
Facebook is currently embroiled in a debate over its decision to allow political campaigns to push ads containing misinformation. The company has said it does not think it should be the arbiter of political speech, though it does stop companies and political committees from using false information in ads.
During a conference call for Facebook’s quarterly earnings report released Wednesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said there were no changes to announce related to the company’s political ads policy.
Politicians, consumer watchdog groups and even some Facebook employees have called on the company to reconsider its stance.
Political ads represented a small fraction of Twitter’s overall revenue. Twitter’s chief financial officer, Ned Segal, tweeted that there was no change to the company’s financial guidance.
Dorsey touched on the conflict between hosting paid political ads and trying to fight the spread of misinformation.
“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!'” Dorsey tweeted.
Dorsey also offered some details on the company’s thought process, noting that it considered only eliminating ads from candidates but felt that left open loopholes for issue-based ads