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Tags: twitter | political ads | jack dorsey | trump

New Ad Policy Will Further Reduce Conservative Impact on Twitter

New Ad Policy Will Further Reduce Conservative Impact on Twitter
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey speaks during a press event at CES 2019 at the Aria Resort & Casino on January 9, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (David Becker/Getty Images)

Tom Basile By Thursday, 31 October 2019 11:58 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey just stepped in it. His new policy banning political ads beginning in November has him stumbling through a minefield.

This latest Big Tech effort to supposedly ‘protect’ information consumers will yield little more than continued bias against conservatives and corporate information management that cuts against the stated purpose of the platform.

Let’s be clear, despite the president’s Twitter empire, it is a platform dominated by the Left.

According to a Pew Center research study on Twitter users, they are far more likely to consider themselves liberal. Only 14% of Twitter users identify as conservative, compared with 25% of the general public.

Conversely, the Pew study found, that 60% of adult Twitter users identify as Democrats or lean Democrat while only 35% of adult Twitter users identify as or lean Republican.

Dorsey isn’t risking alienating conservatives by this move. He’s just further reducing their impact on a platform where they aren’t even close to being his prime user-base.

Fighting fake news, deep fakes, and misinformation sounds all well and good, but then eliminating advertising from legitimate campaigns and candidates is nonsensical. If Twitter truly cared about quality of information it would focus on denying ads to fake individual profiles and shell organizations created for the sole purpose of driving social media content.

The Left in this country has done a masterful job of harnessing what I call T.E.E.N. — Tech, Entertainment, Education and News — to drive their agenda. Republicans and Conservatives spend less money on platforms like Twitter. In this mix, Tech isn’t as much about propaganda as it is about information management.

That’s what this policy will serve to accomplish. It will shield Twitter’s largely, higher-income, liberal Millennials from getting ads from more conservative voices.

Eliminating campaigns and political committees is perhaps easy enough. But political speech is more than what comes out of the mouth of @RealDonaldTrump.

Allowing issue advocacy ads or advertising from public policy groups, public employee unions, industry associations and others could still enable liberals, who spend big on social media, to drive their message on the platform.

Issue education is also often deemed to be political speech as well. Even non-profits and faith-based organizations participate in issue education to promote their values. Will Twitter deem those political in nature because their messages could influence voters regarding an issue in a national, regional, or local conversation?

What constitutes a political ad, lobbying or issue advocacy, after all, is a legal grey area. The IRS, state governments, Federal Elections Commission, State Boards of Elections and even major cities that have their own lobbying disclosure requirements define political efforts differently. Twitter will have to come up with a policy of its own.

These questions are thorny and present a near impossible obstacle for the company. Just wait for the pro-life group that is denied the opportunity to promote a post about protecting the unborn, while Twitter accepts a promoted post from an LGBTQ pride organization.

Is the local teacher’s union ad about public schools not advocacy, but a charter school’s promoted tweet about high test scores a political ad? What if the tweet is from a group that is involved tangentially to an issue in an underlying campaign?

Additionally, organizations and campaigns aren’t the only users who promote posts or run ads that could influence an election. Opinionators masquerading as journalists do this all the time. So-called influencers also routinely promote their material. If they support a particular political candidate or public policy position using their own money, will they be able to promote their tweets?

In the UK, you’re considered a celebrity if you have 30,000 followers on Instagram, according to their Advertising Standards Agency. What constitutes an influencer may be different here, but opening up this Pandora's box means judging if actress-turned-leftist Twitter twit Alissa Milano is more powerful (and credible) on the platform than some random Congressional candidate in Idaho. Remember, celebrities, many of whom are also engaged in activism, are arguably more powerful than politicians and candidates on the platform.

Twitter will have to decide whether someone is an influencer, whether they are credible, promoting political speech or just some average American voicing an opinion to a wider audience.

If Dorsey and crew allow all these groups and individuals to continue using the ad platform but only ban candidates and political committees, the policy will be meaningless. If it starts classifying individuals and parsing groups, issues, values, and potentially dozens of other factors to come up with a definition of ‘political’ it will be a Twitter tirade-worthy mess. It will perpetuate the anti-conservative bias on the platform, but also precipitate fights with the company from all sides.

In any case, the policy — whatever it ends up being — won’t end the dangerous and often biased subjective judgements either made by human or computer-generated content monitors. It will do little to make the platform a source of more reliable information or reduce political content. It likely ends up being just another way the Big Tech attempts to indoctrinate information consumers without them noticing.

Tom Basile has been part of the American political landscape from Presidential campaigns to local politics. He served in the Bush Administration from 2001-2004, as Executive Director of the NYS Republican Party and has held a range of senior-level communications roles in and out of government. Basile's critically-acclaimed book, "Tough Sell: Fighting the Media War in Iraq" (Foreword by Amb. John R. Bolton), chronicles his time in Baghdad fighting media bias and driving fairer coverage of the Iraq war. In 2011, he was featured in Time Magazine's Person of the Year spread about political activism around the world. Basile is an adjunct professor at Fordham University, a local elected official and runs a New York-based strategic communications firm. He is a member of the New York Bar and sits on a number of academic and philanthropic advisory boards. Learn more about him at TomBasile.com or follow him on Twitter @Tom_Basile. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey just stepped in it. His new policy banning political ads beginning in November has him stumbling through a minefield.
twitter, political ads, jack dorsey, trump
Thursday, 31 October 2019 11:58 AM
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