Ever since allegations of “political meddling” on social media emerged during the 2016 election, brands in the social media sector have been under intense scrutiny and, at times, congressional pressure, to do a better job policing user content on their platforms. While Facebook and Twitter have received the brunt of criticism, other big hitters such as Google-owned YouTube have also taken PR hits.
Through all this messaging, a secondary narrative emerged: these companies were intentionally profiting off of political disinformation campaigns. They were allegedly making money by knowingly allowing their users to be deceived.
In response, some companies have pledged to restrict political advertising. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey previously announced his company would no longer accept political ads. Video-share platform TikTok followed suit. Now, streaming music platform Spotify has made a similar pledge.
Speaking to CNN, a Spotify spokesperson said: “At this time, we do not have the necessary level of robustness in our processes, systems, and tools to responsibly validate and review this content. We will reassess this decision as we continue to evolve our capabilities.”
That comment clearly leaves the company open for a positional shift at a later time, but for now, it’s one of the strongest responses to the public pressure related to this issue to date. Media reports say the platform will lose revenue over this, citing the fact that the company has run ads for both the RNC and Democratic Presidential candidates.
If they choose, Spotify could use this as a PR lever to encourage concerned consumers to switch from their free version – which is ad supported – to the pay version, to show support for the brand’s move. If they go this route, Spotify could mount a targeted PR campaign with the goal of making up any potentially lost revenue.
This thought process should be a key factor in any brand’s decision to make a public political move of any kind. Too often, brands just jump into the fray without taking the time to consider the cost or ramifications of taking a public political stance. That kind of lack of forethought and preplanning is often extremely problematic for brands, especially in today’s super-charged political climate.
Making any kind of political statement runs the risk of alienating one demographic, while potentially earning the respect of another. For every brand, while the equation is the same, the variables are distinct, so the accounting must be done with fresh eyes each time. Assumptions in this process will come back to haunt them.