SLF President Steven Law has written a new op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on the false hand-wringing over targeted digital advertising. As the President of Senate Leadership Fund, Law has been involved in serving billions of digital impressions over tens of millions of dollars in ad buys. Read Law’s take, “Don’t Buy the Outrage Over Digital Ads,” here:
My organization, the Senate Leadership Fund, is one of the many political groups using digital techniques to contact potential voters. Like corporate advertisers, we use targeting tools to reach people who are open to the issues and candidates we’re promoting. We don’t bother selling tax cuts to Prius-driving progressives any more than Democrats would pitch gun control to truck-driving rural conservatives. This isn’t mind control, it’s savvy marketing.
Digital advertising is also the most transparent form of political communication that exists. It takes any viewer only three clicks to find out which ads are running in a given campaign, who they target and how much was spent. Facebook’s detailed disclosure requirements make it much harder for bad actors to disseminate false information without being detected. Proposals to restrict online political ads, like Twitter’s recent decision to ban candidate ads, could shift advertising back to less transparent media…
Calls to limit the ability of candidates and groups to communicate with voters are, in effect, a plea to restrict Americans’ First Amendment freedom. To be sure, the Founders couldn’t have imagined a world of search engines and social media, but they chose to guarantee freedom of speech in the broadest terms possible. One can imagine Thomas Jefferson—once the patron saint of the Democratic Party—being appalled by efforts to restrict a speaker’s power to reach his intended audience.
It’s disappointing, though not surprising, to see the old media establishment playing along. It serves their pocketbooks as well as their worldview: “Only we get to decide what’s news.” One of the most consequential effects of the internet is the democratization of speech and information. That can be messy and sometimes counterproductive, but America’s constitutional tradition has always bet on freedom as the best antidote to whatever ills our democratic system faces. It’s still the best policy.
Read the full op-ed, “Don’t Buy the Outrage Over Digital Ads,” on the Wall Street Journal’s website.