Jack Dorsey, head of Twitter, just announced that political advertising will not be allowed on his platform. Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook, will allow political ads and has taken a hands-off approach to policing political ads for false or deceptive content. The stakes are high and the debate is contentious.
Regardless of your political views, you can easily see how these different policies are complicated by very real and important foundational issues. First up is freedom of speech. In the US Constitution, freedom of speech as enshrined in the First Amendment is at the center of this debate. First and foremost the First Amendment protects political speech…which includes political advertisements. Those who are First Amendment absolutists argue that the solution to wrong speech is not banning speech. Rather, the solution is to allow MORE speech. In the end, they argue, truth will win out as long as everyone is free to speak and present their views. Score one for Zuckerberg
If you have a lower view of human nature you might argue, yeah, but advertising is paid speech, and those with the most money can afford the most advertising and most sophisticated advertising strategies and campaigns. Free speech is great, but allowing people with money to distribute political messages to the masses without any responsibility to speak truthfully will result in many people being deceived and manipulated for political ends. Score one for Dorsey