TWITTER VS. FACEBOOK               

By Todd Horwitz 

Twitter vs. Facebook

Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. are staking out starkly different positions about how to handle political ads, but it is unclear how either approach will prevent the spread of misinformation. Some social-media websites have banned ads related to candidates, political parties and legislation. But blocking issues-based advertising, such as ads from advocacy groups or trade organizations, can be hard to enforce, tech executives and media buyers say.

Twitter said Wednesday that it would stop accepting political and issue ads—categories that constitute a fraction of the company’s total ad revenue—world-wide starting Nov. 22, with exceptions such as those encouraging voter registration. Other platforms also allow ads relating to voter registration or mobilization, but tech companies must consider who is paying for those ads and what words they use in them.

Twitter considered stopping only candidate ads but decided that issue ads presented a way to circumvent the ban, Chief Executive Jack Dorsey tweeted. Twitter will release specifics on Nov. 15. “Twitter has come up with the maximum response,” said Alex Stamos, a Stanford University adjunct professor who previously served as Facebook’s security chief. “That will get them the short-term PR benefits but might be much more difficult to enforce.” For instance, Mr. Stamos cited the gray area around blocking issue-focused ads, such as Nike Inc. ’s ad featuring former NFL quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick.

Facebook continues to allow all political ads to run and doesn’t fact-check statements from politicians, and on Wednesday CEO Mark Zuckerberg staunchly defended the company’s stance and ad-transparency initiatives. “Google, YouTube and most internet platforms run these same ads, most cable networks run these same ads, and of course national broadcasters are required by law to run them by FCC regulations,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “Would we really block ads for important political issues like climate change or women’s empowerment?”

Zuckerberg on Wednesday left open a tiny window that he may change his mind, saying he’ll keep thinking about whether or not to allow political ads. “Although I’ve considered whether we should not carry these ads in the past and I’ll continue to do so, on balance, so far, I’ve thought we should continue,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. As we’ve seen over and over with Facebook, Zuckerberg’s decision is final, until it isn’t. And it just might turn out that Dorsey will win the hottest debate in Silicon Valley right now.

Todd “Bubba” Horwitz