Taoiseach ‘wouldn’t encourage’ political ad ban after Twitter move

Leo Varadkar says part of what politicians do ‘is advertising, that is how you get in touch with people’

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar   at the Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin  on Thursday morning. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin on Thursday morning. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says he has “mixed feelings” about Twitter’s ban on political advertising.

On Wednesday, the chief executive of the social media giant announced it would bar political ads entirely, responding to growing criticism over misinformation from politicians and groups on social media.

The company took the decision in an effort to counteract potential problems from “machine learning-based optimisation of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes”.

Asked on Thursday whether he felt Facebook should follow suit after a number of high-profile data breaches and a policy that exempts candidates and parties from fact-checking, Mr Varadkar said he had some issue with the ban in general.

“I can understand why Twitter has made this decision because you know they don’t want to be accused, or even guilty of, the platform being used for fake news and misinformation,” the Taoiseach said.

“But also we’re in a democracy as well and... people being able to place ads as politicians, as political parties, as campaign organisations, as NGOs — anyone who is involved in politics, from the politicians, political party through to the campaign group right to the NGO — part of what you do is advertising, that is how you get in touch with people, and inform them of your policies and inform them of what’s going on.

“I have mixed feelings about the decision, but it is one for them. I wouldn’t be encouraging it, and I wouldn’t be encouraging anyone to follow suit.

“It could start online, and then why not go for further?

“Why not ban political ads? Or, you know, from newspapers and billboards as well? Would that really be a good thing?” - PA