Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has announced that his company will no longer accept political advertising, essentially arguing that the reach of a campaign should be earned, not bought. “While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics,” says Dorsey in a thread on his Twitter account.
Twitter’s decision, which clearly has next year’s US presidential elections in mind and will mean a big loss of potential advertising revenue, now puts the ball firmly in Facebook’s court, which for the moment is insisting that as a bastion of freedom of expression, it’s not only prepared to take money from political parties, but will happily do so even their messages contain outright lies.
If there is a moment that defined the need for social networks to take responsibility for what they allow to be said on their platforms, it was the 2016 US presidential elections. This was when we clearly saw that social networks stopped being a way to reach voters, and under the influence of powerful foreign actors, came to be a vehicle to polarize the electorate through fake news and networks of bogus accounts pretending to be those of concerned US voters or civic associations. We also saw one particular candidate use inflammatory and divisive messages to target specific groups of voters.
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