Twitter bans all political advertisements on its platform

Shamsul Chowdhury

EVP Paid Social, Jellyfish

This news sent shockwaves across both the political and advertising landscapes, with the former feeling the brunt of it given the timing: election year in the US is right around the corner.

The timing of this tweet is particularly interesting to note. Facebook has been under a lot of scrutiny since candidates in the last US election showed misleading ads on the platform to sway voters’ decisions. As a direct byproduct of that, Facebook has added additional layers for political ads before they get approved to avoid the spreading of misinformation. However, this new policy for political ads has been proven to be pretty lax, most recently exploited by Elizabeth Warren for illustrative purposes

Despite all the controversy and negative press, Facebook still came out of their earnings call with very positive results. Twitter wasn’t on the same boat and they took a beating in their Q3 earnings call, which is what’s most interesting about Dorsey’s tweet as it comes less than a week after the call. Twitter has had a series of missteps leading to usage decline and with the popularity of Instagram gaining even further traction, Twitter continues to struggle with competing for users against other social platforms. Some may view Dorsey’s tweet as a call out to gain credibility and in turn, more users, especially since he didn’t hold any punches back when taking shots at Facebook’s policy of policing political ads.

The effect on political campaigns

As advertisers prepare to launch their political ad campaigns, Twitter’s new policy throws a wrench in the works and now they have to pivot. One obvious platform to reallocate budgets to is Facebook. Despite Facebook’s political ads policy, political advertisers will still flock there as they know the audience is significantly larger than Twitter’s. Also of interest is that Twitter’s ban doesn’t explicitly state which types of their ad products will be banned for political advertisers.

Dorsey’s tweet mentions that “A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet”, which would imply a politician can run a campaign to amass followers in which they can spread their message. It’s unclear as to which ad products the politics ban is applied to, but it’ll be interesting to see if advertisers take their budget elsewhere or if they try to circumvent the policy through other ad products as stated above.

Twitter will announce their final policy on November 15th, with enforcement beginning November 22nd. Whatever the final outcome, it’ll be interesting to see how advertisers are accounting for this change and where budgets are being shifted. If you’re an advertiser impacted by this policy change, feel free to contact us to discuss ways on how to mitigate for this new policy.