Getting Rid of Microtargeting in Political Advertising is a Terrible Idea – By Chris Wilson / Published by the Washington Post on 11/17/19

Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter, unleashed a frenzy of commentary when he went Pontius Pilate and effectively washed his hands of the false advertising problem online by announcing his platform would no longer take political ads. But perhaps the most alarming reaction came from Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub, who called on social media giants to “stop the practice of microtargeting” ads on their platforms.

As someone who has worked on multiple state and federal election campaigns, I found such comments from the highest campaign regulatory official in the country counterproductive and anti-democratic. Such a radical proposal would limit speech, reward millionaire candidates, protect incumbents and, worst of all, limit the newfound interest and participation in U.S. elections.

Since the adoption of individualized campaign analytics, turnout has skyrocketed. 2016 saw a 6 percent bump in turnout from 2012 — an increase of more than 8 million voters. In the 2018 midterms, 35 million more voters participated than in the 2014 midterms, and 27 million more voters than in 2010 (despite the tea party wave that year).

Unlike typical wave elections, in which one side is motivated and the other side depressed, campaigns from both parties have increased interest through direct, data-driven appeals that spoke directly to each voter. More reluctant voters, previously ignored by most campaigns, are now included in digital advertising that address them directly. Developing new ways to convince people that voting is worthwhile is the primary task of campaign sciences.

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