Twitter tonight announced that all paid-for political advertising would be banned from its platform from 22 November in a move that will pile pressure on Facebook to do the same.
Writing on the platform, founder Jack Dorsey wrote: “A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.”
In what could be interpreted as a call for regulators to look at the use of political advertising on rival Facebook, Dorsey continued “we’re well aware we‘re a small part of a much larger political advertising ecosystem” and called for “forward looking political ad regulation.”
The amount of money spent on paid-for political advertising on Twitter is dwarfed by that spent on Facebook, but the outsized importance of the smaller platform in political circles in Europe and the US has resulted in highly publicised calls for regulation.
The news came as a poll showed the vast majority of people in the UK support the regulation of political advertising on social media, as trust in social platforms continues to plunge.
More than 80 per cent of people strongly agreed that political ads on sites such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter should be regulated during elections and referendums, according to new research from Yougov and ad agency Grey London.
A quarter of respondents said they used social media more than they did two years ago, even though 63 per cent said they trusted it less.
It comes amid increased scrutiny over the role of social media sites in spreading false or misleading claims during political campaigns.
Consumers have also taken a more active approach to online privacy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when data belonging to 87m users was harvested for use in political advertising.
Facebook, which yesterday accepted a £500,000 fine from the data watchdog over its role in the scandal, recently overhauled its policy on political advertising and vowed to set up a dedicated operations centre for the next election, which has now been set for 12 December.
But the move sparked criticism from Damian Collins, chair of the culture select committee, who said the changes would harm the company’s ability to combat disinformation.
Facebook is also facing a backlash in the US over its decision not to fact check any claims made by politicians ahead of the 2020 presidential election. But boss Mark Zuckerberg has defended the move, saying it was not his job to police what politicians said.
Anna Panczyk, chief executive of Grey London, said: “If the public remains unsure about regulation on social media, then how can trust ever be restored.
“It’s vital that people understand they are protected when online from the harm of false advertising and disinformation.”
The UK’s ad industry is regulated by the Advertising Standard Authority, which monitors complaints about print and broadcast media, as well as paid-for online content. However, it does not currently regulate political advertising.
The government has unveiled plans to set up a new regulator aimed at cracking down on so-called online harms, including fake news and disinformation.
Main image credit: Getty