Facebook v Twitter: the fight for political advertisements

There has been a recent outcry for a call to action as two of the largest social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, have taken vastly different stances on the media’s ability to share political ads on different sites.

This began when Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, tweeted on October 30th that they were going to begin blocking all political ads from the platform.

Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, had a different idea when it came to political ads asking, “Would we ban ads about immigration or healthcare or women’s empowerment? And if you’re not going to ban those does it really make sense to give everyone else a voice in political debates except for the candidates themselves?”

Mark Zuckerberg testified last week on Capitol Hill MANDEL NGAN/GETTY IMAGES

Zuckerberg was quickly attacked by critics such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez for his decision.

Cortez challenges Facebook’s ability to fact check political ads, wondering if politicians would be able to lie in ads and still get out to the public without being fact-checked or targeted.

Following this, an online group named The Really Online Lefty League (T.R.O.L.L.) created a video falsely claiming that US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham supported the Green New Deal in an attempt to test Facebook’s fact checking abilities.

Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill MANDEL NGAN/GETTY IMAGES

The video was quickly taken down showing that Facebook could in fact control political ads that are put out by some groups.

Other groups have begun to argue about political ads being allowed as a whole on social media sites with CNBC holding a debate with Peter Kauffmann, founder of political consulting firm Bluejacket Strategies, Aneesh Chopra, president of CareJourney, and Geoff Yang, founding partner at Redpoint Ventures.

Yang stated in the debate “There are different sets of regulations for traditional media sources that don’t yet apply for the online sources.”

The alternative side argues that taking political ads off of social media will make it harder for up-and-coming politicians to take down the main runners.

Kauffmann replied to this explaining that taking political ads out of social media will not hurt the new politicians with the statement “Alexandria Ocasio Cortez didn’t take out Joe Crowley because she had a bunch of promoted tweets.”

Meanwhile, as the two giants Facebook and Twitter battle for the freedom of political ads on social media, companies like Google have been sitting in the dark and not stepping in with their own stance on the matter.

A Google spokesperson said that the company has no special exceptions in this matter and they hold political ads to a certain degree of factuality as well.

What makes this situation easier for Google is the fact that politicians are much less visible on Google or YouTube.

This of course does not disguise the fact that Google has received $121.9 million for 167,901 political ads in the U.S. since May 31, 2018.

While this number is large, it is severely overshadowed by Google’s overall ad revenue of around $34 billion.

The numbers received from Facebook and Twitter are also small with Zuckerburg stating that a mere 0.5% of their revenue comes from political ads.

The same can be said for Twitter, as Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal stated that only 0.1% of twitter’s revenue comes from political ads.

On Sept. 5, 2018, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill

This all defeats any argument made that what is going on in this debate is for any sort of monetary gain.

In the beginning, I felt that any threat towards political ads would only make the public less informed.

I looked in to studies showing that an entire third of the population of the United States was unsure of the names of the candidates up for election. Upon hearing this, I felt that trying to block off the ability to post political ads was only going to ruin the public’s ability to learn about the political climate.

However, after looking into this argument, from my perspective, it seems that blocking political ads from media sites such as Twitter and Facebook is actually doing more good than bad.

Blocking political ads from social media does not simply target primary news sources; this also targets ideas put out by untrustworthy sources.

As Yang stated in the CNBC debate, social media is not held to the same standards as television, which in turn gives them room to stretch the truth.

In the end, it’s evident that maybe blocking political ads on social media like Twitter and Facebook might actually improve the state of the media and politics.

Evan Saverino is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism Class