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Who do you think a ban on political ads benefits most?
Twitter has made the decision to ban political ads in Canada until the writ period actually begins.
While some have criticized Twitter for the move, the fact is that the company is not really to blame.
Instead, blame lies with the Trudeau government, who have successfully pressured the social media firm into blocking the ads.
The issue centres around the repeated pressure being put on social media outlets by the Trudeau government to stop what the government claims is ‘misinformation.’
A series of restrictive policies have been put in place surrounding political advertising, and this has resulted in Google saying that political ads will not be allowed in Canada ahead of the federal campaign, due to the rules being too tough to follow in the short time between implementation and the election.
Now, Twitter has said that partisan ads won’t be allowed on Twitter in Canada until the election starts. Meanwhile, third party groups are still able to advertise on issues, but individual candidates and parties cannot be promoted.
What this means is that—for example, the Conservatives can’t run Twitter ads calling for people to support their candidates—but groups funded by US billionaires could run ads attacking the Canadian oil sands.
And this is where we get to the most disturbing aspect of this:
These new bans on advertising—which the Trudeau government is responsible for far more than the social media companies—benefits the party currently in power.
Think about it. This is what we see in authoritarian states masquerading as democracies. Sure there are “elections,” sure the opposition is “allowed” to speak once in a while, but the whole system is skewed towards the governing party.
In this case, the Liberals have the entire massive apparatus of government in order to get their message out, they have their $600 million media bailout to influence the press, and they have the CBC to push their messaging—all without the opposition having anything similar.
The only way for the opposition to respond is to advertise where people are, and that’s increasingly online on social networks like Twitter. But now, that opportunity has been taken away—which is exactly how the Trudeau Liberals want it.
The Conservatives have rapidly outpaced the Liberals when it comes to fundraising, soliciting more money from more people. That advantage however is now severely blunted by the social media advertising restrictions, which again advantages the Liberals.
And to get a sense of the deeper hypocrisy here, consider how much the Liberals loved using social media in 2015. They weren’t complaining about “false news,” or “misinformation,” they—to their credit—used social media quite brilliantly to make up for their cash disadvantage in the last campaign.
Yet, notice how the Conservatives—even when they were in power and were being clobbered by the Liberals on social media – didn’t all of a sudden start restricting political ads on social media, and didn’t threaten to shut down Twitter as the Liberals have hinted at. They let the competition take place and free expression was preserved.
So, while there may be some who think it goes too far to say the Liberals are acting in an authoritarian manner, or “restricting dissent,” the fact is that the Liberals are using the threat and the reality of government power to close off platforms their opponents could use to criticize them.
That is the opposite of what’s supposed to happen in a free and democratic society, and all of us—regardless of our position on the political spectrum—should oppose the Liberals efforts to restrict our freedom on social media.