Why put a ban on political ads only on social media?
Priya Wadhwa
10x Industry

Why put a ban on political ads only on social media?

The case of earned vs paid media.

Political adverts have been a hot topic in light of the upcoming elections in the UK, Brexit, and even the 2020 presidential race in the United States of America. The power of social media platforms’ data and the ability for anyone to put up adverts and specifically target them to people, makes it a dangerous ground for skewing opinions and election outcomes, especially without regulation.

Imagine if you’re a parent. The political ad might be a promise to increase child support or reduce school fees. Or, if you’re a farmer, to provide more subsidies and grants. Or, if you’re aging, promises regarding healthcare. Social media, as well as Google — yes, basically all data powerhouses — allow hyper-personalisation, which means every person can see the message they want to hear. Plus, it’s cheaper and easier than broadcasting on traditional media platforms such as on the television or the newspaper.

In an environment where pressure on digital platforms to ban political campaigns is increasing, Facebook is standing its ground to allow them, albeit a bit more diplomatically. On the other hand, Twitter’s Co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey announced that all political advertisements will be banned on its platform.

We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.
Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter

If you’ve watched TV during elections in any other country, be it in India or the Netherlands, you’ll know how the ad spend for political campaigns increases. During peak hours, one is most likely to be exposed to the same TV message multiple times.

Even though this is more mass targeted, political campaigns’ success should not be nearly affected by how much money they have to spend on advertisements. It should be based upon their ideas and visions to improve the economy. And if their visions and plans for the country are indeed good and if they are of a good mindset, then journalists will most likely share their story.

Moreover, due to the nature of news outlets, fact-checking will be done before, and not after the broadcast of their message.

That’s the power of earned media.

So why ban political adverts only on social media? Why not ban them across the board and only allow earned media to publicise politicians, their parties and their messages?

Naturally, this is dependent upon each country and their own set of regulations and enforcers. The ban can more easily be implemented on social media, as they are private companies whose services are used across the world. They have a stronger impact today than traditional sources.

Having said that, banning them on digital platforms in the first and most important step, because campaign pages and people hired by political campaigns can be paid to share and highlight only positive messages.

The International Committee on Disinformation and Fake News, represented by an international group of politicians, lawyers, policy advisers, rights activists and data-protection regulators, has now warned of dire consequences if action to ban political adverts on social platforms is delayed. Over the past few years we’ve seen highly controversial political steps being perpetrated, which could have wider detrimental effects on the global economy.

With the congressional hearings of Facebook and mounting pressure on social media platforms to ban political ads, it is yet to be seen how stern the actions taken will be. However, while people are focusing on Facebook, another ubiquitous data giant is being ignored — Google — whose Adwords have often been regarded as the undisputed king of digital campaigns.