With no political ads, Twitter does not address a real problem
With the decision, Twitter will probably end political micro targeting: advertising to specific groups of people, possibly in specific (zip code) areas. It is a form of advertising that involves a risk, says Tom Dobber. He conducts research on micro targeting.
“Everyone sees a newspaper advertisement. If Mark Rutte places an advertisement with nonsense, journalists will write about it and people will find out that it is nonsense. With microtargeting this is much more difficult. They are targeted advertisements that only a few people need to see. Then it is much easier to lie or to imagine things just a little different than they are. ”
Yet Dobber doubts whether the aversion to Twitter for political microtargeting is fully justified. “While on Facebook and Instagram there is about a cross-section of the Netherlands, on Twitter there is only a specific group of people: activists, journalists, academics, the committed citizen. This makes it much less interesting for political parties to microtarget on Twitter. The fear I think Twitter is not very realistic. ” This is underlined by the fact that Twitter hardly receives any income from political advertisements.
Frank van Dalen also says that Twitter is only a small player in this area. With his Political Academy, Van Dalen sells voter data to political parties so that they can micro-target their message. “We help political parties to determine where to campaign and to whom to focus in order to be successful. Almost all parties have already visited us and use our data.”
“Focusing very closely on your own target group works to achieve better election results. But Twitter is only a small player within a large landscape of political campaigning.”
Moreover, says researcher Dobber, rejecting political ads does not address a much larger problem: bots, accounts that automatically post tweets that look like they come from real people. “Jack Dorsey says he is afraid of voter manipulation, but what he lacks is that bots that spread fake information on a large scale are not being tackled at all with this ban.”
Dobber only sees potential negative consequences of Dorsey’s decision. “I think it’s a bizarre decision, to be honest. Twitter is a public platform and they have a responsibility to enable political parties to circulate their ideas and views to the public. That makes it a lot more difficult this way.”
New and small political movements in particular will suffer, he thinks. “They are not dominant voices in the debate and need more to spread their views and advertisements are ideal for that.”
Van Dalen hardly sees this as a problem, precisely because little is advertised on Twitter by Dutch politicians. “Certainly in the Netherlands, parties spend little money on Twitter compared to Facebook and Instagram. People who are on Twitter are relatively socially involved. They are people who already know who they will vote for, and little profit can be gained there.”
He therefore does not think that small political parties or movements are affected by Twitter’s decision. “Larger parties have more reach on Twitter, even without ads. You can always go viral with a good story, even without a paid tweet.”
Facebook does not follow Twitter: Political advertisements remain allowed
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has no intention of banning political ads on the platform. On Wednesday, in a meeting with shareholders, he announced that despite all the discussions there would be no change in the policy of the social medium.
Earlier this week, Twitter announced that from November 22, political ads will no longer be allowed on the platform. According to CEO Jack Dorsey, targeted messages are forced on people by advertisements. He believes that politicians should deserve the attention of the voters themselves.
This decision increased the pressure on Facebook. The company has been under attack for a long time because of its policy on political advertisements. Zuckerberg emphasized in his conversation with the shareholders that Facebook is holding its ground and that he still thinks it is “not right” for companies to censor politicians and media.
Zuckerberg says this is not an economic consideration, because political advertisements account for less than 0.5 percent of Facebook’s sales, the CEO said. According to the CEO, it will be a difficult year for the company. He still expects a lot of discussion about political advertisements.
Despite all the fuss and discussion about the policy, Facebook achieved good results in the past quarter. Turnover in the third quarter of 2019 was $ 17.7 billion (15.8 billion euros), 29 percent more than in the third quarter of last year.
The number of users is also increasing. The platform has 1.62 billion active users per day. This growth is mainly explained by the growing market in India, Indonesia and the Philippines.