Earlier this week, Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) announced its intent to ban politics-related ads while Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) still harbors these ads even if they are associated with false information. But it appears neither of the companies it getting it right.
According to half a dozen political advertising researchers, the solutions to fair digital political advertising doesn’t lie in the extremes. “Limiting micro-targeting would be more effective approaches compared to the policies set by Twitter and Facebook,” said Ellen Goodman, a professor specializing in information policy law at Rutgers Law School.
The opposing opinions
The CEOs of both social media companies championed how their choices will uphold a fair democracy. After all, political ads contribute a small percentage of their profit, and according to both CEOs, and the choice to ban or keep these ads is a matter of principle rather than profits.
Both Facebook and Twitter have made decisions that fall in line with the logic of their operations. It is relatively easy for Twitter to shirk political ads, stir up headlines, and probably gain praise from Democrats. However, things won’t be this simple for Facebook, its largest competitor.
If Facebooks were to ban political ads, according to Nicole Perrin (a senior analyst at eMarketer who specializes in political ads), it would be more disruptive. She estimates the breakdown of digital ad budgets for political advertising campaigns mirror those of commercial promoters, with Facebook and Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) making up about 60 percent of the total spend.
Some won and other lost
Had Facebook banned political ads like Twitter, it would have caused more concern, according to Will Ritter, the co-founder of Poolhouse (ad agency) and a Republican advertising strategist. He firmly believes that Facebook has a broad and more balanced appeal compared to Twitter, a platform he perceives as a ‘place for super insiders’ and some bots.
The need for regulation
In March, Washington Post reported Michael Zuckerberg’s plea to the lawmakers to create clear laws regarding digital advertising. If there were federal and state regulation about what Facebook had to do about political ads, Zuckerberg believes that this would change the public conversations significantly.