Twitter and Moscow

Grind for November 7th
“What most persons consider as virtue, after the age of 40, is simply a loss of energy.”
– Voltaire


The Headline

Twitter outlaws political ads

The Grind

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last week announced the platform would no longer accept political ads:

“We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.”

In other words, spending money to promote a message removes user decision and facilitates opportunities for misinformation, undue political influence, and micro-targeting.

“This isn’t about free expression,” continued Dorsey. “This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle.”

The Details

Dorsey’s announcement included a direct shot at Facebook, which is still struggling with the ramifications of the 2016 presidential election:

“It’s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want!”

Ironically, Twitter’s decision to ban political ads means Facebook will be a focus for party spending – therefore increasing the opportunity for foul play.

During a conference call hours after Dorsey’s announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told analysts he didn’t want the site to act as a “censor” for political speech.

Facebook has made some major changes since 2016, but its efforts to label fake news do not apply to political ads. The site has also failed to provide transparency about targeting.

“I think the bit that’s concerning is that it’s easy to micro-target voters using criteria that are not clear with very specific messages, which may not tell the whole story of what a campaign is trying to achieve,” says marketing consultant Alex Balfour.

Twitter’s new policy goes into effect November 22nd.

Red Flag

The Headline

Russia implements “sovereign Internet law”

The Grind

A controversial Russian law that gives the government the ability to cut the country’s Internet off from the rest of the world went into effect this month.

Moscow insists the law is designed to be used in emergencies, but critics aren’t convinced.

The law, which requires all ISPs to maintain tech that can “track, filter, and reroute Internet traffic,” could theoretically be used to block individual posts, notes Human Rights Watch.

Moscow could utilize the system to “independently and extrajudicially block access to content that the government deems a threat.”

The Details

Human Rights Watch fears the law is a precursor to something like China’s “Great Firewall,” a combination of laws and software that allows Beijing to censor the Internet and silence dissent.

“Now the government can directly censor content or even turn Russia’s Internet into a closed system without telling the public what they are doing or why,” argues Human Rights Watch activist Rachel Denber. “This jeopardizes the right of people in Russia to free speech and freedom of information online.”

The immediate effects of the law on Internet use remain unclear.

Did you know… Oak trees produce 2,200 acorns in a season, but each acorn only has a 1 in 10,000 chance of becoming an oak tree.