01 Nov 2019

Twitter, Facebook, Political Ads and Mission Statements

An interesting developing story that demonstrates how values and mission statement impact on short and long term policies of two internet giants, Twitter and Facebook.

The issue:

The spread of fake news and disinformation on social media.  

Background: Facebook has declared that it will take steps to either remove accounts that it believes spread disinformation or demote those accounts across its network, unless the disinformation is contained within paid Ads by political parties.

This has opened Facebook to accusations of hypocrisy and greed.

Twitter, on the other hand, has declared that it will completely ban political Ads across its network, which means it will almost certainly lose millions of dollars in revenue.

So, how come the two leading social media companies have each taken such a different approach?

The answer can be found within each organisation’s mission statement:

Twitter, Facebook, Political Ads and Mission Statements.

The mission statements:

Facebook’s mission statement is: “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Twitter’s mission statement is: “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers.”

Facebook’s mission statement focuses on connecting people. The nature of the information they share is irrelevant.

By contrast, Twitter’s mission statement focuses on instant free speech without barriers. It invites users to say the first thing that comes to their minds without being censured or having to worry about political correctness.

Indeed, two completely different mission statements.

The issue of Political Ads:

Political Ads are the opposite of spontaneous speech and any form of censorship is effectively a barrier to free speech.

Furthermore, the paid promotion by political parties to Ads that promote political ideas and ideologies suppresses free speech because the practice helps promote ideology based on whoever pay the most, rather than on the basis of merit or genuine public interest.

Resolving the issue:

Facebook has never made its mission to promote free speech or democracy. It’s stated mission is to connect people and that’s it.

So, it’s decision to continue to accept payment and to promote political Ads, even if they contain disinformation is compatible with its mission statement.

Twitter, on the other hand, has made its mission to promote instantaneous free speech, which means its decision to refuse to display paid political Ads is consistent with its own mission statement.

Conclusion:

At times of trouble, when important decisions need to be made, or whenever there are different views within the organisation about a critical topic, the place to turn to for the right answer is the organisation’s mission statement. Mission statements are a way to direct a business in the right direction, and they play a part in helping a business make sound long-term decisions.

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