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Zuckerberg Doubles Down on Political Ads After Twitter’s Ban

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  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced Wednesday that the platform would ban all political ads because it believes “political message reach should be earned, not bought.”
  • The final policy will go into effect on Nov. 22, though it will still allow ads promoting voter registration.
  • A little more than an hour after Dorsey’s announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doubled down on Facebook’s continued policy to not censor any political ads, even if they may contain false information, despite blowback from politicians and some of his own staff.

Twitter Bans Political Ads

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced Wednesday that the platform will soon abandon the use of all political ads.

In a series of Twitter posts, Dorsey talked about why the platform made this new decision, saying, “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.”

“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers,” he said, “that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.”

“Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes,” Dorsey continued. “All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”

Dorsey also said executives at Twitter debated on only removing candidates’ ads, but scrapped that decision because ads featuring political issues “present a way to circumvent.” He added that he believes there is a basic lack of fairness to such a move.

The new decision is not without its own controversy. Speaking to the Washington Post, Daniel Kreiss—a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—said Twitter ads are “one of the ways that candidates get their message in front of a public whose attention is extremely divided and fragmented.”

He also said that especially true if someone has fewer followers online and is running a grassroots campaign.

In his announcement, however, Dorsey addressed those points, saying that some might see this move as favoring incumbents, but many social movements have reached a “massive scale without any political advertising.”

Dorsey then ended by saying Twitter will publish the final policy by Nov. 15 and it will go into effect on Nov. 22. The only exception to this rule as of now will be ads in support of voter registration.

Twitter’s new policy does not change the fact that it will continue to allow any posts made by any politicians, a decision made in June when the platform said it would allow misleading posts from lawmakers. Notably, however, the platform also said it would demote those posts and tag them as false.

Politicians React

Following Wednesday’s announcement, President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale called the move a partisan attack.

“Twitter just walked away from hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue, a very dumb decision from their stockholders,”  Parscale said in a statement posted to Twitter.

“This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives, since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known,” he continued.

On the other hand, a spokesperson for former Vice President Joe Biden praised the decision but also somewhat criticized it for banning all political ads. Earlier in October, Biden urged Twitter and other platforms like Facebook to ban misleading political ads.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also jumped into the mix, saying, “This is a good call. Technology – and social media especially – has a powerful responsibility in preserving the integrity of our elections.”

“I believe that if a company cannot or does not wish to run basic fact-checking on paid political advertising, then they should not run paid political ads at all,” she said in a follow-up post. 

Does This Put Pressure on Facebook?

A little more than an hour after Dorsey’s announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doubled down on Facebook’s continued policy to not censor any political ads, even if they may contain false information.

“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,” Zuckerberg said in the post. “I think there are good reasons for this. In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news. And 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 then continued, saying it would also be hard to define where to draw the line. He then pointed to transparency, noting Facebook’s ad library, which archives all political ads and details how much was spent on them.

Zuckerberg also addressed recent concerns that he is trying to appease conservative politicians.

“Frankly, if our goal were trying to make either side happy, then we’re not doing a very good job because I’m pretty sure everyone is frustrated with us,” he said. “Our values on voice and free expression are not partisan. But unfortunately, in our current environment, a lot of people look at every decision through the lens of whether it’s going to help or hurt the candidate they want in winning their next election.”

It is, however, unlikely that Zuckerberg’s post is in direct response to the Twitter policy change as his post was a planned third-quarter earnings report. 

This latest announcement follows Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress last week, where he also defended the platform’s decision to not ban or label misleading ads and posts from politicians.

Earlier this week, more than 250 Facebook employees signed a message asking Zuckerberg to change that policy.

“Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing,” they said in a letter. “Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for.”

Among other things, they asked Zuckerberg to hold all ads to the same standard and to restrict political ads from being targeted to custom audiences.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Business Insider) (Washington Post)

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Supreme Court Begins Contentious New Term as Approval Rating Hits Historic Low

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The most volatile cases the court will consider involve affirmative action, voting rights, elections, and civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community.


High Court to Hear Numerous Controversial Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday officially kicked off a new term that will be marked by a number of very contentious cases.

The justices, led by a conservative super-majority, will hear many matters that have enormous implications for the American people.

The first case the court will hear this term involves a major environmental dispute that will determine the scope of government authority under the Clean Water Act — a decision that could have a massive impact on U.S. water quality at a time when water crises’ have been heightened by climate change.

The case also comes amid increasing concerns about federal inaction regarding climate change, especially after the Supreme Court significantly limited the government’s power to act in this area at the end of its last term.

Cases Involving Race

Several of the most anticipated decisions also center around race, including a pair of cases that challenge affirmative action programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.

For over four decades, the high court has repeatedly upheld that race can be a factor in college admissions to ensure a more equitable student body. Despite the fact that multiple challenges have been struck down in the past, the court’s conservative super majority could very well undo 40 years of precedent and undermine essential protections.

The high court will decide a legal battle that could significantly damage key voting protections for minorities set forth under the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The case in question stems from a lower court opinion that invalidated Alabama’s congressional map for violating a provision in the VRA prohibiting voting rules that discriminate on the basis of race.

Alabama had drawn its map so only one of its seven congressional districts was majority Black, despite the fact that nearly one in every three voting-age residents in the state are Black. 

States’ Power Over Elections 

Also on the topic of gerrymandering and elections, the justices will hear a case that could have a profound impact on the very nature of American democracy. The matter centers around a decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court to strike down the Republican-drawn congressional map on the grounds that it amounted to an illegal gerrymander that violated the state’s Constitution.

The North Carolina GOP appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause gives state legislatures almost total control over how federal elections are carried out in their state under a theory called the independent state legislature doctrine.

“That argument, in its most extreme form, would mean that [sic] no state court and no state agency could interfere with the state legislature’s version of election rules, regardless of the rules set down in the state constitution,” NPR explained.

In other words, if the Supreme Court sides with the North Carolina Republicans, they would essentially be giving state legislatures unchecked power over how voting maps are designed and elections are administered.

LGBTQ+ Rights

Another notable decision the justices will make could have huge implications for the LGBTQ+ community and civil rights more broadly. That matter involved a web designer in Colorado named Lori Smith who refused to design websites for same-sex couples because she believed it violates her right to religious freedoms.

That belief, however, goes against a Colorado nondiscrimination law that bans businesses that serve the public from denying their services to customers based on sexual orientation or identity.

As a result, Smith argues that the Colorado law violates the right to free speech under the First Amendment. If the high court rules in her favor, it would undermine protections for the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado and likely other states with similar laws.

Experts also say such a ruling could go far beyond that. As Georgetown University’s Kelsi Corkran told NPR, “if Smith is correct that there’s a free speech right to selectively choose her customers based on the messages she wants to endorse,” the Colorado law would also allow white supremacists to deny services to people of color because that “would be a message of endorsement.”

Record-Low Approval Rating

The court’s high-stakes docket also comes at a time when its reputation has been marred by questions of legitimacy.

A new Gallup poll published last week found that the Supreme Court’s approval rating has sunk to a record low. Specifically, less than half of Americans said they have at least a “fair amount” of trust in the judicial branch — a 20% drop from just two years ago.

Beyond that, a record number of people also now say that the court is too conservative. Experts argue that these numbers are massively consequential, especially as the U.S. heads into yet another highly-contentious court term.

“The Supreme Court is at an important moment,” Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs told The Hill

“Trust in the institutions has vastly diminished, certainly among Democrats, and many have a close eye on how they rule on other vital matters. If decisions seem to keep coming from a very pointed political direction, frustration and calls for reform will only mount.”

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (CNN) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Biden Mistakenly Calls Out For Dead Lawmaker at White House Event

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The remarks prompted concerns about the mental state of the president, who previously mourned the congresswoman’s death in an official White House statement.


“Where’s Jackie?” 

Video of President Joe Biden publicly asking if a congresswoman who died last month was present at a White House event went viral Wednesday, giving rise to renewed questions about the leader’s mental acuity.

The remarks were made at the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health, which Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-In.) had helped convene and organize before her sudden death in a car accident.

The president thanked the group of bipartisan lawmakers who helped make the event happen, listing them off one by one, and appearing to look around in search of Rep. Walorski when he reached her name.

“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” he called. “I think she wasn’t going to be here to help make this a reality.” 

The incident flummoxed many, especially because Biden had even acknowledged her work on the conference in an official White House statement following her death last month.

“Jill and I are shocked and saddened by the death of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana along with two members of her staff in a car accident today in Indiana,” the statement read.

“I appreciated her partnership as we plan for a historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this fall that will be marked by her deep care for the needs of rural America.”

The Age Maximum Question

Numerous social media users and news outlets presented the mishap as evidence that Biden, who is 79, does not have the mental capacity to serve as president. Others, meanwhile, raised the possibility of imposing an age maximum for the presidency.

Most of the comments against the president came from the right, which has regularly questioned his mental stability. However, the idea of an age limit goes beyond Biden and touches on concerns about America’s most important leaders being too old.

While Biden is the oldest president in history, former President Donald Trump — who is 76 and has also had his mental state continually questioned — would have likewise held that title if he had won re-election in 2020.

These concerns extend outside the presidency as well: the current session of Congress is the oldest on average of any Congress in recent history, and the median ages are fairly similar among Republicans and Democrats when separated by chambers.

There is also a higher percentage of federal lawmakers who are older than the median age. Nearly 1 out of every 4 members are over the age of 70.

Source: Business Insider

What’s more, some of the people in the highest leadership positions are among the oldest members. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), is the oldest-ever House Speaker at 82, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — the president pro tempore of the Senate and third person in line for the presidency — is the same age, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is 80.

As a result, it is unsurprising that a recent Insider/Morning Consult poll found that 3 in 4 Americans support an age max for members of Congress, and more than 40% say they view the ages of political leaders as a “major” problem.

Those who support the regulations argue that age limits are standard practice in many industries, including for airplane pilots and the military, and thus should be imposed on those who have incredible amounts of power over the country.

However, setting age boundaries on Congress and the President would almost certainly necessitate changes to the Constitution, and because such a move would require federal lawmakers to curtail their own power, there is little political will.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Business Insider) (NBC News)

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Churches Protected Loophole in Abuse Reporting for 20 years, Report Finds

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In some cases, Clergy members failed to report abuse among their congregation, but state laws protected them from that responsibility.


A Nationwide Campaign to Hide Abuse

More than 130 bills seeking to create or amend child sexual abuse reporting laws have been neutered or killed due to religious opposition over the past two decades, according to a review by the Associated Press.

Many states have laws requiring professionals such as physicians, teachers, and psychotherapists to report any information pertaining to alleged child sexual abuse to authorities. In 33 states, however, clergy are exempt from those requirements if they deem the information privileged.

All of the reform bills reviewed either targeted this loophole and failed or amended the mandatory reporting statute without touching the loophole.

“The Roman Catholic Church has used its well-funded lobbying infrastructure and deep influence among lawmakers in some states to protect the privilege,” the AP stated. “Influential members of the Mormon church and Jehovah’s witnesses have also worked in statehouses and courts to preserve it in areas where their membership is high.”

“This loophole has resulted in an unknown number of predators being allowed to continue abusing children for years despite having confessed the behavior to religious officials,” the report continued.

“They believe they’re on a divine mission that justifies keeping the name and the reputation of their institution pristine,” David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, told the outlet. “So the leadership has a strong disincentive to involve the authorities, police or child protection people.”

Abuses Go Unreported

Last month, another AP investigation discovered that a Mormon bishop acting under the direction of church leaders in Arizona failed to report a church member who had confessed to sexually abusing his five-year-old daughter.

Merrill Nelson, a church lawyer and Republican lawmaker in Utah, reportedly advised the bishop against making the report because of Arizona’s clergy loophole, effectively allowing the father to allegedly rape and abuse three of his children for years.

Democratic State Sen. Victoria Steele proposed three bills in response to the case to close the loophole but told the AP that key Mormon legislators thwarted her efforts.

In Montana, a woman who was abused by a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses won a $35 million jury verdict against the church because it failed to report her abuse, but in 2020 the state supreme court reversed the judgment, citing the state’s reporting exemption for clergy.

In 2013, a former Idaho police officer turned himself in for abusing children after having told 15 members of the Mormon church, but prosecutors declined to charge the institution for not reporting him because it was protected under the clergy loophole.

The Mormon church said in a written statement to the AP that a member who confesses child sex abuse “has come seeking an opportunity to reconcile with God and to seek forgiveness for their actions. … That confession is considered sacred, and in most states, is regarded as a protected religious conversation owned by the confessor.”

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Deseret) (Standard Examiner)

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