It was a Twitter thread heard 'round the world. CEO Jack Dorsey proclaimed no more political advertising on his platform, to which the internet replied: Bad idea.
In a clear shot at archrival Facebook — since founder Mark Zuckerberg has remained adamantly opposed to censoring any ad content on his social network — at the end of next week Twitter will be booting all paid advertising aiming to influence elections in any way. That is because, Dorsey said, "political message reach should be earned, not bought."
Since Twitter's announcement at the end of October, however, many officials and advocates who profess concern about disinformation's spread have come to agree that Twitter's move misses the point and won't prove to be that big a deal. Most misleading political content is posted for free and doesn't seek eyeballs through paid advertising, they note, and Twitter's political ad revenue is a drop in the bucket compared to what Facebook and Google get. Plus, they say, the social media giants have hardly proved themselves worthy of the public trust required of self-regulators.
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Two bills at the heart of congressional Democrats' agenda for securing next year's election have run into a formal roadblock at the hands of the Republicans running the Senate.
One measure would require disclosure of the organizations or people paying for the political advertising that's already flooding online platforms, with the goal of exposing those who would sully the 2020 campaign with disinformation. The other would authorize federal spending of $1 billion to repel another wave of voter registration and election equipment hacking attempts similar to the widespread interference tried by the Russians last time.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reluctantly agreed last month to get behind $250 million in election security grants to states, but he's vowed to block all other more expansive policy legislation. And so his deputies carried out his wishes Tuesday when a pair of Democratic senators went to the floor and sought permission to pass their favored bills.
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Gun rights. Racism. Immigration. When it came to disrupting the 2016 presidential election, Russian operatives knew all the hot buttons to push on social media, according to a report released Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
And push them they did, in what the report found was a clear and multifaceted effort to help Donald Trump and undermine Hillary Clinton — in a disinformation campaign virtually guaranteed to be resurrected with fresh approaches in the coming year.
"Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the U.S. that didn't start and didn't end with the 2016 election," the committee said. "Their goal is broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government. By flooding social media with false reports, conspiracy theories, and trolls, and by exploiting existing divisions, Russia is trying to breed distrust of our democratic institutions and our fellow Americans."
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