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Political ads on social media – Yea or nay?

With the General Election coming up in the UK and the release of the Netflix documentary, The Great Hack, there seems to be an increased focus on political ads within the digital space.

On the 30th October 2019, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced, via tweet, that Twitter will be banning all political advertising. While it’s not yet clear what the ban means, the initial insights indicate that it applies to both ads endorsing candidates and ads advocating a position on political issues. Twitter has announced that they will start enforcing the policy from the end of November 2019.

Facebook has faced heavy criticism around their refusal to fact-check political advertising and Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has ruled out a ban on political ads. Facebook did however release their new requirements for ads about social issues, elections and politics in the UK.

The Twitter announcement received widespread applause, but less enthusiasm from those who create, run or research political advertising. In those circles, a ban is being criticised for being simplistic and likely unenforceable – and therefore more of a PR move for the company.

All Response Media viewpoint
Based on Twitter’s announcement and Facebook releasing their new requirements, there is clearly an increased focus on political ads from the social media conglomerates.

Political ads on social media is a complex topic and the move to ban political ads altogether from Twitter will without a doubt be challenging, as it will require them to decide what they define as a political ad. You can argue that identifying political candidates’ ads is relatively straightforward but identifying political issue ads will not be as straightforward. Looking at Facebook’s newly released requirements, it’s a grey area because enforcement comes down to whether the ads, creative and/or landing page engage in advocacy and/or debate over a political issue. It will therefore again require for a definition and a personal review process which will be difficult to enforce at scale.

At All Response Media, we don’t manage any political parties, but we do manage several non-government organisation/charities. Many charities do cross over and advocate for social-political issues such as homelessness, climate change, helping people in conflict zones etc., and it will, therefore, be challenging when it comes to a potential ban on social-political issue ads on social media. As an agency, we would always argue that charities aim to help someone and/or fight a cause, and we therefore, don’t see any issue in supporting them. We do agree that party-political advertising is an area that requires focus and control, but social-political issues are far more complex. We will therefore follow this debate and the outcome closely – and we work closely with both Facebook and Twitter to get the most recent updates.

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