Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1064/29873
Readers' opinion: Twitter's banning of political ads threatens workers' voice
Joshua Allerton, Wolverhampton and Black Country Socialist Party
On 30 October, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, announced in a tweet that Twitter plans "to stop all political advertising" on its platform. His apparent reasoning behind this was his belief that "political message reach should be earned, not bought."
This may look like a courageous move by a social network giant which made over £100 million revenue in just the UK last year. But actually, it will have very little consequence for their finances. Only 21 advertisers across the EU ran ads on Twitter during the European elections earlier this year.
For the working class, the consequences are much worse. The policy will still allow big companies in the pharmaceutical and fossil fuel industry to buy ads that promote and distribute misinformation. However, an activist who dares criticise these companies will be seen as political, and therefore banned from buying ads to do so.
For Dorsey, it seems he wants to add fire to the rivalry with Facebook, which made $857 million on political and issue-based advertisements from May 2018 to June 2019. Nick Clegg, ex-deputy prime minister and now Facebook's policy chief, recently announced it is considering restricting politicians' ability to use highly detailed demographic data to target voters with ads.
Facebook has bitten the bait. And while the tech giants fight over who is more 'democratic', it will be the working class which has its voice stifled more through their actions.
What should be done? To begin with, Twitter could start paying more taxes. Last year, the UK arm of Twitter only paid £41,000 in corporation tax despite making more than £100 million. Immediately, this money could be spent on decent mental health provision and other services needed by those users affected by social media.
We need to nationalise Twitter, and other social media platforms, and bring them under democratic working-class control. Regulation and licensing done with no democratic input would be a transfer of power from company to the capitalist state. Our media could become even more biased towards capitalist propaganda.
By nationalising social media, advertising and profit is no longer the main factor. In fact, networks like Twitter and Facebook could really become social. Workers would be able to voice their opinions more freely than in the workplace, movements could be organised, and you could challenge your MPs more directly.
The social data we could gather from these networks would be important in democratic economic planning. Instead of capitalist businesses looking at where to plug products, under a socialist society we could find out quickly where needs are not being met and provide the services that are required.
For Twitter, this is just a publicity stunt to convince their users that 'they're not political'. Although we know the answer, I still pose the question that was in the last issue of the Socialist: whose side are you on, Jack?
In The Socialist 13 November 2019:
What we think
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns