Free speech or needing the money? Elon Musk overturns Jack Dorsey’s 2019 ban on all political advertising on the platform
Twitter has announced that it will relax its total ban on political adverts, amid revenue worries at Elon Musk’s micro-blogging platform.
The decision was revealed on the Twitter Safety account, when it announced that “Today, we’re relaxing our ads policy for cause-based ads in the US. We also plan to expand the political advertising we permit in the coming weeks.”
This directly overturns a decision took by former CEO and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who in October 2019 announced that Twitter would ban all political advertising from November that year.
Dorsey took the decision, tweeting at the time “We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally,” he tweeted. “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.”
“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet,” he added. “Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimised and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.”
“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions,” Dorsey said at the time.
“Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimisation of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale,” he added.
Twitter at the same time had also clarified the rules for banning of world leaders using the micro-blogging platform to push their views, after calls three years ago for the suspension of President Donald Trump’s account.
But with Twitter now under the controversial control of Elon Musk, this political advertising ban has been reversed.
Moving forward, we will align our advertising policy with that of TV and other media outlets. As with all policy changes, we will first ensure that our approach to reviewing and approving content protects people on Twitter. We’ll share more details as this work progresses.
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) January 3, 2023
Twitter said that it “will align our advertising policy with that of TV and other media outlets…” and that it will “…share more details as this work progresses.”
So far there has been no public reaction to the move by Jack Dorsey, at the time of writing.
This decision comes as Twitter confronts a revenue crisis, after advertisers including General Motors and Pfizer, paused spending amid fears of a rise in divisive content on the platform after Musk’s botched relaunch of Twitter’s subscription service.
That said, some advertisers have reportedly reinstated their advertising spend on the platform.
But research firm Pathmatics has reportedly noted that about 70 percent of Twitter’s top 100 advertising clients were not spending on the platform as of mid-December.
Advertising of course is Twitter’s main source of revenue, accounting for 90 percent of its $5.1bn turnover in 2021.
And Elon Musk may be worried.
In November Musk raised the possibility of the platform going bankrupt during his first mass email with the platform’s remaining staff.
A sign of financial issues at Twitter emerged this week when a landlord in San Francisco sued Twitter over failing to pay rent on its headquarters in the city, amidst a cost-cutting drive.
Twitter has also been sued for failing to pay for two charter flights.