Pace University, Randi Priluck P.h.D. , professor, social media, marketing

Twitter Bans Free Speech?

Twitter has banned all political ads on its platform becoming a hero for a day. It was a surprising move given the reluctance of tech companies to get involved in the content posted on their sites. Like most such actions, the actual impact will hardly be noticeable. Since Twitter is the only site to ban political ads, people will still be exposed to paid content from candidates on other larger networks. According to ComScore, Facebook and Google have significantly more unique users in the US than Twitter, so people will still be exposed to online political advertising. Second, Twitter makes news when influential people tweet. The more outrageous the statement, the more likely the information will spread, not only on Twitter, but in traditional news outlets as well. Pairing that with the fact that people tend to trust paid less than organic content, the tweets will still hit their targets who will be even more likely to believe what they read.

So, is it a public good that Twitter is banning political ads or not? It’s certainly a relatively easy thing for Twitter to do. It is much more difficult to monitor the ads and determine their veracity. This process would require flagging suspicious content and hiring people to evaluate the messages. The problem is that banning all political ads means that candidates who do not have strong Twitter followings will be less able to reach audiences with their messages, thus giving even more power to the powerful.

Artificial intelligence techniques are improving and tech firms may have more tools in the future to effectively monitor. In 2018 Instagram announced that they are using a machine learning platform called DeepText to detect bullying language. This kind of technology could be applied to political ads to flag them for internal review. However, the platforms may be reluctant to adopt the monitoring technologies because of the potential for increased scrutiny of their businesses by political and governmental entities.

Professor Randi Priluck P.h.D.
Priluck is Professor of Marketing and Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies at Pace University. She also serves as Director of the Masters in Social Media & Mobile Marketing program in the Lubin School of Business, Pace University.


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