WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Presidential candidates now have a new place to try to win over voters: social media site X, formerly known as Twitter. For the first time since 2019 the platform says it will allow paid political advertising.
Laura Edelson is an assistant professor of computer science at Northeastern University who has extensively researched online political communication. She says X’s announcement raises important questions.
“Are they going to do it responsibly or are they just going to try to get as much money as they can?” Edelson said.
She says she found issues with the way Twitter handled previous campaign cycles.
“Twitter was one of the platforms that did the worst, in terms of actually making sure the political advertisers followed the rules,” Edelson said.
Misinformation concerns led Twitter to stop accepting paid political ads in 2019. Now with Elon Musk leading the company, it’s reversing course.
Dave Karpf, an associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, calls it a cash grab.
“Elon’s site desperately needs money, there is some money in this. He would like it please,” Karpf said.
When he took over, Musk drastically cut content moderation on the site. Now X promises to expand its safety and elections teams to combat misinformation.
“Right now, all of the experts who know how to do this work are not at Twitter. So they better hurry up and hire a lot of people very quickly,” Edelson said.
Sol Messing, an associate professor with NYU’s Center for Social Media and Politics, warns that without content moderation, this move could hurt X.
“The risk of some sort of scandal or disaster is probably now higher for X,” Messing said.
The experts say whether the decision will actually impact political discourse remains to be seen.
“These ads, they tend to help really small campaigns. They tend not to make a big difference for presidential campaigns,” Messing said.
Edelson expects the ads will grab more attention from journalists on X than from the general public.
“It is going to be more of an elite messaging strategy, rather than it’s going to be a mass messaging strategy,” Edelson said.
Karpf says other issues will likely limit the impact.
“My guess is that it’s going to be an irrelevant mess, since the website is becoming less and less useful every day,” Karpf said.