clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Most social media platforms don’t allow political ads, but they should

Worries about misinformation have prompted Twitter, Pinterest and TikTok to ban political advertisements. But voters should be able to fact-check information themselves.

This March 29, 2018 file photo, shows the logo for social media giant Facebook at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York’s Times Square. Frenchman Alain Cocq who suffers from a long-term and incurable degenerative illness had planned to show what he expects will be a painful end to his life, but Facebook said Saturday Sept. 5, 2020, it has blocked his live broadcasts and President Macron has said that French law forbade him for granting Cocq’s request for a medically-assisted death.
Richard Drew, Associated Press

When Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced last week that the company would block any new political ads in the week before election day, he admitted the divisiveness in our country has him worried.

With “election results potentially taking days or even weeks to be finalized,” he wrote in a Facebook post, “there could be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country.”

Facebook allows political ads and while the company has fact-checkers to substantiate claims made in those ads, Zuckerberg has been clear on his position that internet platforms should pretty much let politicians post what they want.

“I think you want to give broad deference to the political process and political speech,” he told CNBC last year.

But regarding fact-checking ads in that week leading up to the election, Zuckerberg wrote he’s not sure there would be enough time to contest new claims. Political ads submitted up to that time will continue running.

Different social media platforms disagree on whether their networks should censor political posts and ads.

But I question: Why we are relying on social media networks for this?

It is the responsibility of every voter to do their own research, not rely on the likes of Facebook or Twitter to spoon-feed them political truth.

We should be allowed to see ads and posts from all political parties and candidates, do some digging to find out how factual the information is that’s presented and then form our own opinion without social-fact-checkers tinting our judgement.

Twitter blocked all political advertising last year. And I don’t completely disagree with CEO Jack Dorsey’s reasoning.

“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” he wrote in a Twitter post. “Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes.”

He doesn’t want political candidates and parties to be able to buy more exposure to their position on causes. I get it.

Campaigns and groups will spend more than $1 billion in online ads, according to eMarketer, and it could be said that Twitter and other platforms are acting nobly in denying the revenue political ads bring.

Those campaigns should also have the right to use the money they’ve raised to reach voters, and voters should then take the information presented to them and become their own fact-checkers.

Blake Chandlee, vice president of global business solutions for TikTok, wrote on a blog post last year that since the platform is lighthearted and fun, they decided not to allow political ads.

But I’m more in line with Snapchat’s vision of how their platform can encourage young people to engage.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said in an interview with CNBC that Snapchat has a team that fact-checks any political ads that appear on the platform. He said they want a place for political ads on Snapchat, “especially because we reach so many young people and first-time voters we want them to be able to engage with the political conversation.”

These platforms can go ahead and fact-check political ads and posts for me. But their conclusion won’t necessarily be mine.

When you come across a political post making a claim, whether it’s from an official source or the guy from your high school debate team, here’s how to fact-check it yourself:

Look for sources. Is the story from a website you’ve never heard of? Check the organization’s “About Us” page to learn more. Search for the gist of the story independently to see if any other news organizations are covering it and how. Check the article for quotes from legitimate sources and make sure the article covers both sides of the issue.

Check your feelings. If the post incites anger in you, take a deep breath and then do a little self-evaluation to determine whether someone may have written the post to do just that. Don’t let confirmation bias stop you from investigating further. Psychology Today explains that confirmation bias “leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views or prejudices one would like to be true.”

Pause before you post. Always be skeptical and think twice before sharing on social media. Is the intention of sharing the post to further the conversation or to incite hate and divisiveness? Look for original sources and make sure thoughts and quotes are in context.

It’s nice that social media networks are looking out for us when it comes to possible political misinformation online. But most of us want what is best for our country and are thoughtful enough to do our own research to get to the bottom of sketchy claims. Now let’s just make sure we do it.