Trump threat to pull ‘billions’ in internet ad spending is exaggerated

US President Donald Trump speaks at the Oval Office before signing a social media regulatory executive order May 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump’s decree could lead to attempts to punish companies such as Twitter and Google for attempting to report factual inconsistencies in social media posts by politicians.

Doug Mills | Swimming pool | Getty Images

When signing an executive order cracking down on “censorship” of social media platforms, President Donald Trump said the government would reconsider spending “billions of dollars” on these platforms.

But data on advertising spend from marketing analytics firm Pathmatics suggests that this is an exaggeration. The company’s follow-up shows that the federal government has spent about $ 170 million this year so far on Google-owned Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Trump’s order came Twitter decided to put fact-checking labels on the president’s tweets. It targets companies benefiting from liability protection under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. By law, large social media companies cannot be prosecuted for much of the content posted by other users of their sites.

the the order states that the government “protects” taxpayers’ money from platforms “that restrict freedom of expression,” and said heads of departments and executive agencies will review their federal spending on advertising and marketing on online platforms .

In signing the order, Trump said, “The government is spending billions of dollars to give them money. They are rich enough, so we are going to do nothing or very little.”

According to Pathmatics, the actual numbers are a little smaller. Federal government advertisers tracked by Pathmatics have spent about $ 135 million on Facebook so far this year. Pathmatics said Facebook’s figure includes advertising spending since the start of the year from 20 different government agencies, including the US Census Bureau, Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Health and Human Services .

Pathmatics said 11 agencies – including the Air Force, FDA and the Census Bureau – spent less than $ 28 million this year on YouTube pre-roll videos on mobile and desktop computers, as well as display ads.

Federal government advertisers spent less than $ 8 million on Twitter in 2020. This includes spending by 15 federal agencies, including the Census Bureau, the military, social security, and the Marine Corps.

While this is still a piece of healthy change, it is a simple sweep for the tech giants.

Facebook’s advertising revenue was around $ 70 billion in 2019, while YouTube’s advertising revenue was around $ 15 billion. Twitter advertising generated nearly $ 3.5 billion last year.

Facebook and YouTube did not send requests for comment on the potential loss of this ad revenue. Twitter declined to comment.

– Julia Boorstin and Stephen Desaulniers from CNBC contributed to this story.

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