Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren posted false advertisements to Facebook on Saturday to see if she could prove to voters that the social media platform values profit over facts.
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“Facebook holds incredible power to affect elections and our national debate. They’ve decided to let political figures lie to you — even about Facebook itself — while their executives and their investors get even richer off the ads containing these lies,” Warren wrote in a series of Twitter posts criticizing Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg.
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Democratic presidential candidate and Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks during the 2020 Gun Safety Forum hosted by gun control activist groups Giffords and March for Our Lives at Enclave on Oct. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas.
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The ads, publicly sponsored by the Warren campaign, claim Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg endorsed President Donald Trump for reelection, showing a photo of Trump and Zuckerberg in the Oval Office. Then the ads immediately take it back, ironically slamming Zuckerberg for giving politicians free reign to post false information.
“You’re probably shocked, and you might be thinking, ‘how could this possibly be true?’ Well, it’s not,” the ads say. “But what Zuckerberg has done is given Donald Trump free reign to lie on his platform — and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters.”
Criticism of the platform’s ad policy broke out last week as Facebook political ad transparency reports showed Trump’s reelection team dropped a total of $1.1 million on political ads between Sept. 22-28, pushing against an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats.
Warren said her campaign intentionally made the ad to see if Facebook would approve it, and they quickly did. She said many of the ads Facebook approves are ones TV stations won’t even air.
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“Once again, we’re seeing Facebook throw its hands up to battling misinformation in the political discourse, because when profit comes up against protecting democracy, Facebook chooses profit,” Warren wrote.
She added, “Facebook just takes the cash, no questions asked.”
This isn’t the first rift between the lawmaker and Facebook.
In March, Warren unveiled her plans to break up “big tech” companies. Through the policy, Warren would “unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition ” — citing Amazon for its takeover of Whole Foods, Facebook for its takeover of WhatsApp and Instagram and Google’s for its takeover of the mapping app Waze.
“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” Warren said in a statement. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else.”
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Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaves a meeting with Senator John Cornyn in his office on Capitol Hill on Sept. 19, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
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Zuckerberg said he would “go to the mat” and fight for his company against Warren’s policy, according to audio leaked Oct. 1 from a July Q&A session with Facebook employees at company headquarters.
“Does that still suck for us? Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government … We care about our country and want to work with our government and do good things,” Zuckerberg said in the audio. “But look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.”
Warren expressed concerns on Twitter that she believes Facebook holds power not just over the social media market, but also the political conversation surrounding the 2020 election. And as the fourth Democratic debate nears and early-voting states are paying closer attention to the candidates, she said letting false claims circulate is dangerous.
“Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once through negligence,” she tweeted. “Now, they’ve changed their policy so they can profit from lies to the American people.”
A sign-up sheet was created on her campaign website to give voters what she called a chance to “hold Mark Zuckerberg accountable.”