Facebook v. Democracy

Twitter has announced that it will not accept any political advertisement on its platform, worldwide.

This is a shrewd move by Twitter as the loss in revenue terms is slight, and it helps to pile pressure on a competitor – Facebook.

Facebook has responded with conflicting, garbled announcements – but no real substance. Imagine your auntie drunk posting on a Saturday night right after Strictly – that is the level of coherence from Facebook. Facebook is trying to protect a revenue stream, so it will squirm to protect the cash. However, this does not make much sense, given that the money from election advertising (while growing) is still relatively modest. The projected spend on Facebook for the 2019 UK election is likely to be less £10 million. This is a significant amount, but not compared to what Facebook makes from general (non-political) advertising.

So, the question has to be why would Facebook risk controversy and possible later regulation for relatively little financial gain – after all, Facebook is always about the money, nothing else.

It could be that Facebook is scared of further offending right-wing politicians, both in the UK and the US. President Trump has long whined about bias when he does not get enough likes or follows, pathetic given he is the President, but better than letting him run things.

If Trump wins a second term in 2020, then Facebook will have hedged its bets nicely. But, if Trump loses, Facebook could well be on the receiving end of a Democrat President, possibly President Warren. Senator Elizabeth Warren has already called for the break-up or regulation, or both, of Facebook.

The very fact that Facebook has put in place some kind of war office for the UK and US elections should be an indication to Facebook itself that their course of action is unsustainable.

Facebook denied and then later admitted foreign actors used their platform for interference in the 2016 US election and the 2016 UK Referendum and the 2017 UK election.

Facebook’s motto is, “move fast and break things” – however when it comes to political advertising; it appears to be, “move slow and deny things”.

Facebook needs to recognise that the tide is turning against it. It does need to take decisive action and ban all political ads – it can then get back to what it does best – sharing pointless, addictive and fun snippets of life, (and putting up with your auntie) – that is why we joined in the first place.