This past week, Twitter announced it will not accept political ad dollars on its platform.
This was a huge announcement. Not only does it attempt to curb sensationalistic campaigns in social media, but it sets the stage for Facebook to either fall in line or risk being ostracized by some while being manipulated by others.
It’s no secret that social media has a massive influence on the national election process due to its propensity to fan the flames of news, both real and fake. The last election was clearly manipulated by people from other countries, which has been confirmed by our national intelligence.
I think it’s also safe to say that both political parties manipulate the truth through social media from within the country. Democrats and Republicans are complicit in telling half-truths in their political advertising with the goal of swaying undetermined voters while galvanizing their bases. It’s muckraking and yellow journalism all packed into one tweet/post/share at a time — the lowest common denominator.
It would be a bold statement for Facebook to fall in line with Twitter, as there are literally millions upon millions of dollars at play here per quarter. Even if Facebook were to take this drastic step (I don’t think it will), social media is still going to be a political battleground.
Both platforms have a responsibility to try and authenticate the groups posting political rhetoric and to verify the facts. Of course, my saying that implies that Twitter and Facebook have the same responsibilities as that of major news networks like CNN or Fox News.
Unfortunately, the fact is that very little of the time do these platforms take the necessary steps to verify the news they report. I will admit they have gotten better in recent months, but they still portray the news through a filter of what they consider to be “truth” and therefore are engaged in yellow journalism of their own.
I would have thought online advertising would be under pressure around the issue of consumer privacy as we entered into the election season, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Privacy is a secondary issue to mass manipulation.
To be honest, I agree. Privacy is an issue that can be addressed by saner heads. The industry is headed toward a reconciliation on the balance between monetization and privacy consideration.
The most important issue is having media platforms that are honest, practice high integrity and are less able to be manipulated by a vocal minority of people who are not representative of the majority of Americans.
All that is being accomplished in online political advertising is to fan the flames of hatred and spread inaccurate half-truths in order to manipulate a base of people who are fired up without all the information. And for the record, this goes both ways. Speaking as a registered Independent, I have to say once again that both Republicans and Democrats are practicing the same unethical issues when it comes to “the truth.”
As I have learned over time, the truth never lies on the right or the left side of any topic. It falls squarely in the middle. There are facts and then there are the ways those facts are portrayed by either side of the political aisle.
I hope online advertising can lead social media to a place where facts are facts, and all facts are portrayed in a less-sensational manner without trying to purposely sway people one way or the other, but allow people to make their decisions based on their evaluation of those said facts.
It’s going to be a long and interesting 12 months as we move toward next November. Consider this the calm before the storm as we enter into one of the most heated political periods in memory. Here’s hoping our industry doesn’t add fuel to the fire.