Colleen Hammond | Opinions Editor
Tuesday, Nov. 5 marked a historic election for the U.S. as it was the last election to feature paid political advertisements on Twitter. Twitter announced their decision to ban political ads on Oct. 30 and noted the ban will be fully implemented on Nov. 22.
While political ads on Twitter may not have shaped the outcome of Pennsylvania’s most recent election, a lack of political advertising practically rewrites the rules for modern political campaigning and proposes a unique industry standard.
Although the most social media platform for political advertising is Facebook, Twitter plays a key role in shaping modern, American democracy, and the absence of paid political ads will be noticed.
Twitter has become a global hub for political involvement and change. Most importantly, Twitter has become a place where people can connect with their elected officials. According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of Americans feel that social media platforms, mainly Twitter, get politicians to pay attention to certain issues.
Twitter is the newest and most widely accepted way to write a letter to a local congressman. By placing average citizens at the same social level as political leaders, the internet has become a democratizing force.
In addition, it has become a garden for activism and social change. Massive social movements such as Black Lives Matter and the Me Too Movement were started on Twitter as hashtags. For this reason, it makes sense that the Pew Research Center also documented that 67% of Americans feel social media platforms are vital to social change.
Because the general public has been captivated by Twitter as a mechanism of democracy, it seems odd that paid political advertisements would be banned.
However, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey expertly phrased his reasoning. In the announcement he stated, “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.”
In a world previously dominated by TV and radio, only those who could afford it could implement political advertisements. The invention of the internet marked a society where everyone has a voice. If the internet is to remain a relatively equal playing field of information, the rich cannot be allowed to buy their political influence.
Despite the relatively small section of Twitter’s revenue earned by political ads, their actions set a valuable and necessary industry standard.
Online political advertising has become an information warzone. Because social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are not required to monitor the validity of advertisers’ claims, a slew of false information reaches large audiences.
By eliminating paid political advertisements, Twitter is helping eradicate false information spoken in the name of campaigning. This effort needs to be taken industry wide. Unfortunately, not all media giants view their responsibility to the public the same way.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has received intense public scrutiny and congressional questioning about Facebook’s role in fueling ideological polarization, and he has demonstrated no interest in preserving the truth. Despite the investigation of Facebook’s connection to 2016 election meddling, Zuckerberg insists that paid political advertisements on Facebook do not have the power to shape elections.
Facebook’s refusal to remove paid political ads should degrade their credibility and bolster Twitter’s standing with the general public.
Social media platforms should not be the kingmakers of democracy. Their intense involvement perpetuates a culture where power and influence can be bought. This detrimental practice cannot continue if democracy is to be preserved in the internet age.
Banning paid political ads must become an industry standard for social media companies. Without corporate intervention, false advertisements online will become the new normal, leaving few internet safe havens for the truth.
By removing paid political ads, true societal influence can be gained through activism and social involvement. Twitter’s decision sends a powerful message about their business practices that need to be adopted by their industry competitors.