'Truth' In Advertising Struggles As Platforms Twitter, Spotify Reject Political Ads

Truth in political advertising and earned media will remain a major debate in 2020, after companies such as Spotify and Twitter reported in 2019 that they would no longer allow political advertising on their platforms.

Tech companies face conflicts and challenges as they determine how they will handle political advertising leading up to the 2020 election. Spotify last week said it would suspend political ads in 2020, following Twitter’s decision in November. The two took the opposite approach to Facebook and Google.

“I don’t blame Spotify and Twitter for making the decision, because no one seems to agree on the meaning of truth in politics,” says Kevin Lee, executive chairman at Didit and CEO of the eMarketing Association. “They can find the truth for toothpaste — it makes your teeth their whitest. You can actually find good old-fashioned truth by applying metrics and key performance indicators that say four in five dentists recommend sugarless gum. You can’t do that for political advertising.”

The bigger problem, Lee says, is fake domestic or international accounts that spread propaganda. The platforms still have to admit that a problem remains.

“It they have a few million extra in their engineering team, some should be dedicated to addressing the fake profile issue,” he said. “Cutting off advertising is an easy way out when people can’t agree on the meaning of the truth within politics.”

How do platforms like Twitter and Spotify put together a bipartisan advertising approval team for political ads when people can’t even agree on the meaning of truth? Lee says half the people in a room will say the Ukraine meddled in the election, although the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency say they didn’t.

Lee says the move by Spotify and Twitter is “crazy” -- from a public media perspective -- to think it solves the problem of fake profiles, either domestically or internationally. He believes these fake profiles contribute to a bigger problem that attempts to manipulate the U.S. public.

“This as a tweet that many people in the country … would say it’s an illegal tweet and retweeted by the president of the United States,” Lee says. “Not accepting political advertising doesn’t solve the problem.”

A stock photo from a well-known advertising photographer ended up in one of Trump’s whistleblower tweets after the U.S. President retweeted a Twitter tweet from Surfermom77, a fake content farm account that no longer exists.

“In this case it wasn’t an ad, but rather earned media,” he said. “It’s a fake propaganda-driven profile probably created internationally.”

The stock image belongs to Terry Vine, who Lee calls a noted and prolific advertising and marketing photographer.

“The internet advertising world deals with fake impressions and fake clicks all the time, and we also deal with content farms and negative SEO,” he wrote in a post. “The net is rife with fakes.”


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