“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said last month in announcing a complete ban on political advertising for candidates or issues, “that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.”
But is it the risk to “the lives of millions” that is at issue here?
Pressure for social media companies to police “renegade” voices came mainly from the left . . . in Congress and major media. These are the groups with the most to lose by the free flow of political debate, as spurred by paid political advertising, which is what challengers often use to break through the incumbents’ natural advantage.
Congress is filled with incumbents, by definition.
Major media sees itself as gatekeeper for political discourse, and feels threatened by an unregulated online culture.
Accordingly, Twitter’s ban received rave reviews from the political left. “Good call,” progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded. A spokesperson for former Vice-President Joe Biden’s campaign called it “encouraging.”*
“Good,” tweeted Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (also sort of a presidential candidate). “Your turn, Facebook.”
But Facebook is thankfully not bending to pressure.
“[I]f Facebook were to cut off political ads, it could end up undercutting the scrappy, first-time candidates . . .,” reports The Washington Post. “Voters are more likely to see Facebook ads than television ads from challengers, according to the findings, published in a working paper whose first author is Erika Franklin Fowler of Wesleyan University.”
“Online advertising lowers the cost and the barriers to entry,” Fowler told The Washington Post.
Which is bad for the political establishment because it is good for challengers, the outsiders.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* Perhaps the ban encourages top Democrats for the same reason the president’s campaign manager sounded the alarm: “This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known.”