Twitter says it is banning all political advertising around the world because of an evolving risk from highly targeted ads, misleading information and “deep fakes”.
The policy comes in on 22 November, so will affect the UK general election and next year’s US election.
Donald Trump’s campaign team has attacked the decision as “very dumb” and “yet another attempt to silence conservatives”.
In a series of tweets, Twitter boss Jack Dorsey explained the decision, saying “political message reach should be earned, not bought”.
We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons…🧵
— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019
“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet,” he said.
“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.
“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.”
Mr Dorsey said internet advertising posed an evolving set of risks such as “micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes”.
Donald Trump’s 2020 election campaign called the ban a “very dumb decision for their stockholders” as the firm would lose “hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue”.
The statement from campaign manager Brad Parscale called it “yet another attempt to silence conservatives, since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known”.
While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.
— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019
Mr Dorsey said the firm would reveal the final policy by 15 November, to begin on 22 November.
There will be few exceptions such as ads in support of voter registration.
“This isn’t about free expression,” said Mr Dorsey, “this is about paying for reach.”
“And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address.”
Twitter’s shares were down 3% in after-hours trading as investors reacted to the news.
The issue of political ads flared up again in September when Twitter, Facebook and Google refused to remove a misleading video from Donald Trump’s campaign that targeted former vice president Joe Biden – his likely opponent in next year’s US election.
Fellow internet giant Facebook was again criticised earlier this month when it said it would not fact-check ads by politicians or their campaigns.
Critics want Facebook to also ban political adverts.
However, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told Congress last week that politicians had the right to free speech on the platform.
The Internet Research Agency, a group linked to the Russian government, paid for thousands of Facebook adverts in the run up to the 2016 US election.
Investigators said it was to sow social discord and interfere in the result.
Sky News technology correspondent Rowland Manthorpe said Twitter’s move was a “huge statement”.
“This will pile the pressure on Mark Zuckerberg to follow suit,” he said.
“But there is one caveat: it’s a lot easier for Jack Dorsey to do this because Twitter doesn’t make nearly as much money from political advertising as Facebook.”