Facebook has been under pressure over its policy on political advertising: and specifically, on its policy of not taking down ads by politicians even if they include outright lies.
Yesterday, Twitter upped the pressure on Facebook by announcing that it’s banning ALL political advertising on its own service. CEO Jack Dorsey announced the new policy in a series of tweets, and took a fairly-obvious potshot at Facebook in the process. 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!” he wrote, following up later with: “This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address.”
In his own earnings call later in the day, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pushed back on the idea of banning all political ads. “Right now the content debate is about political ads, should we block political ads with false statements or should be block all political ads. Google, YouTube and most Internet platforms run these same ads. Most cable networks run these same ads and of course national broadcasters are required by law to run them by FCC regulations. And I think that there are good reasons for this. In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news,” said Zuckerberg.
One thing to watch: will ad-supported music services like Spotify and Pandora (plus YouTube) face questions about their own political-ad policies in the months ahead? With a Brexit-fuelled UK general election in December and then next year’s US presidential election looming, any service accepting political ads should expect to be asked to explain its approach.