New Twitter policy introduces political bias

Twitter recently issued a ban on political advertising shortly after Facebook announced its policy to purposely allow political advertisements with misinformation on their site. Though Twitter’s plan is a stark contrast against Facebook’s outrageous policy, Twitter should not enforce its ban because of the risks that could come from issuing its new policy.

The policy, which was put into effect on Nov. 22, is not a smart move for Twitter. Although it may seem like a good idea to remove political advertising entirely, the policy will no doubt  receive backlash as Twitter determines what is considered “political speech” on its site, which is not a role that Twitter should take on.

According to Twitter’s policy, the ban would be on “ads that advocate for or against legislative issues of national importance.” 

What makes the new policy an issue is that the categories of the advertisements that Twitter is banning are very broad, which makes the policy open to interpretive flexibility and can create confusion on how the policy works.

Twitter also should not have the power to determine what is considered a political ad or not since Twitter created a few exceptions to political advertising. For example, climate change is one category that Twitter banned, but Twitter showed its bias by making exceptions for big oil companies to continue promoting their climate-polluting brands.

The company’s policy is also biased toward new political candidates as it gives them a disadvantage by not allowing them to advertise themselves on Twitter, a social media app where much political discourse occurs. Evidence from political scientist, Erika Franklin Fowler, from the University of Wisconsin, has shown that social media advertisements are very helpful in making unknown candidates stand out. 

The policy also favors candidates with a large Twitter following such as Donald Trump because the policy still allows organic tweets, a message which reaches followers without having to advertise.

Besides the bias that comes from the new policy, there are also problems that arise from having to enforce it. Since Twitter maintains a bad reputation with addressing violations of their policies, it seems unlikely that Twitter could be trusted with regulating its advertisement policy. For example, Twitter fails to take action against forms of harassment on its site unless they believe it was a violation of their policies.

In fact, any political bans on a social media app could create controversy in the future, especially for an app where politics are discussed. For example, Facebook required political advertisers to register and sometimes would ask to verify with a name and location. This requirement led to complaints from advertisers because it put a few restrictions on political advertising. With a full ban on political advertising from Twitter, this would obviously lead to many complaints.

Overall, the political ban from Twitter seems questionable as it creates a political bias toward well-known candidates and also comes with exceptions to advertising that also seem biased. The Twitter policy should not be issued as it comes with risks from creating bias and problems from regulating it.