Citing the risks of “deep fakes,” misinformation and microtargeting, Twitter will ban all political ads, CEO Jack Dorsey said Wednesday.
“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 said in a Twitter post. “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.”
The ban will apply to ads for politicians, as well as "issue" ads, Dorsey says.
The news comes after weeks of controversy surrounding political ads on Facebook, which not only allows microtargeted political ads, but also exempts ads by politicians from fact-checking.
Earlier this month, Facebook came under fire for allowing President Donald Trump to run an attack ad implying that former Vice President Joe Biden pressured the Ukraine government to fire its chief prosecutor for personal reasons. The ad falsely suggests that Biden wanted the prosecutor fired because he was investigating an energy company with ties to Biden's son. The Obama administration actually wanted the prosecutor fired for failing to investigate corruption among Ukraine's politicians, according to press reports.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company considered banning political ads, but decided not to because a ban would give incumbents an advantage.
“Political ads are an important part of voice -- especially for local candidates, up-and-coming challengers, and advocacy groups that may not get much media attention otherwise,” Zuckerberg said in a speech delivered earlier this month at Georgetown University. “Banning political ads favors incumbents and whoever the media covers.”
Dorsey addressed that argument in his tweets -- though without mentioning Facebook by name.
“Some might argue our actions today could favor incumbents,” he wrote. “But we have witnessed many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow.”
The Twitter CEO specifically mentioned “microtargeting” as cause for concern about political ads. Others have raised the same concer regarding political ads on Facebook's platform.
Two hundred and fifty Facebook employees recently asked Zuckerberg to curb politicians' ability to use targeting tools for political ads, arguing that microtargeting resulted in conversations too siloed for public scrutiny.