Social media platforms are struggling to find ways to handle political content, political advertising, and political pressure – and at the same time avoid accusations of unfairness, pandering, or censorship.
Twitter has gone for a radical solution – ban all political ads, and Democrats are by and large happy with the decision, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who welcomed the move.
In a tweet reacting to the announcement made by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Ocasio-Cortez wrote that “technology and social media especially” has a powerful responsibility in preserving the integrity of our elections,” adding, “Not allowing for paid disinformation is one of the most basic, ethical decisions a company can make.”
The congresswoman isn’t actually opposed to tech platforms running political ads – but she wants to shift the responsibility concerning the veracity of the messages from those who produce them onto these companies.
Dorsey’s reason for the move is that “political message reach should be earned, not bought.” Some conservatives disapprove of the decision and see it as politically motivated rather than being an ethical stance. But it could also be an attempt to keep the company out of hot water – the kind that Facebook has found itself in.
Facebook’s policy is to let politicians “say anything in ads, even if they include false information” – and Ocasio-Cortez last week quizzed CEO Mark Zuckerberg when he took part in a US Congress hearing. She was attempting to prove that Facebook is willing to allow false, i.e., non-fact checked political ads.
What drew the latest round of Democratic fire against Facebook is the giant’s decision not to remove President Donald Trump’s ad because his likely opponent in the US 2020 elections Joe Biden claimed it was “completely false.”
Instead of attempting to navigate the minefield of fact-checking and moderation, Twitter decided to get rid of the problem by removing political ads completely. And although the move was clearly prompted by the increasingly tense political struggle in the US ahead of the elections, Twitter’s blanket ban applies globally, Dorsey revealed.
While agreeing with the decision, Ocasio-Cortez still remarked in one of her tweets that although the argument is made that social media sites are not able to fact-check all political ads that appear on their platform, “basic fact checking isn’t hard.”