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'Whoa': Twitter to End Paid Political Advertising on Platform, CEO Says

"This isn't about free expression," said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. "This is about paying for reach."

Twitter's decision on Wednesday to ban political advertising was met with cautious praise.

Twitter's decision on Wednesday to ban political advertising was met with cautious praise. (Image: Jisc)

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday announced that the social media site would no longer have paid political advertisements, a move sure to shake up the digital landscape that earned him praise from progressives. 

"Wow," tweeted activist Edward Snowden. "Big move by @jack, and a bigger contrast to @Facebook's increasingly problematic policy positions."

In a series of tweets, Dorsey laid out the reasons for the decision and made clear that the policy would only apply to paid advertisements. 

"This isn't about free expression," said Dorsey. "This is about paying for reach."

"They're drawing a clear line between paid reach and earned, organic reach," said NBC journalist Ben Collins.

Under the new rules, as indicated by Dorsey, a campaign presumably could post an advertisement video or photo to its own account—just not pay to promote it. The final policy will be announced on November 15 and implemented on November 22. 

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"A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet," Dorsey explained. "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."

Dorsey appeared to take a subtle shot at competitor Facebook, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a recent hearing that political advertisements on that platform did not need to be truthful. In response, activists bought an ad that shows members of the Republican Party supporting the congresswoman's Green New Deal; Facebook approved the ad.

"It's not credible for us to say: 'We're working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well...they can say whatever they want!'" said Dorsey.

Reaction from progressives was hesitantly positive. 

"I don't really know their reasons or [if] it is good or bad ultimately," tweeted blogger Atrios, "but at least knock a dent in the ridiculous Facebook 'free speech requires we privilege people who give us money' argument.

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