Elizabeth Warren ramps up battle with Facebook

"We need to do a lot more to hold Facebook accountable," Warren tweeted Sunday.
Image: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at the SEIU Unions for All Summit in Los Angeles on Oct. 4, 2019.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at the SEIU Unions for All Summit in Los Angeles on Oct. 4, 2019.Mario Tama / Getty Images file

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By Allan Smith

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., ramped up her criticism of Facebook this weekend, taking aim at the company's policy on political advertising and for having "contributed" to media job losses.

One of the leading 2020 Democratic candidates, Warren's weekend of prodding Facebook comes amid continued scrutiny of the tech giant, which she has called to be broken up.

On Saturday, Warren tweeted that her campaign "intentionally" published a Facebook ad with false claims to "see if it'd be approved." The ad said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had endorsed President Donald Trump's reelection campaign.

Warren posted the ad amid criticism the company has faced about its decision to allow politicians to run ads containing falsehoods.

"Facebook changed their ads policy to allow politicians to run ads with known lies — explicitly turning the platform into a disinformation-for-profit machine," she tweeted. "This week, we decided to see just how far it goes.

"We intentionally made a Facebook ad with false claims and submitted it to Facebook’s ad platform to see if it’d be approved," she continued. "It got approved quickly and the ad is now running on Facebook. Take a look:"

She added that Facebook "holds incredible power to affect elections and our national debate."

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"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," she continued. "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."

It's Facebook's policy not to subject politicians to third-part fact-checking that the company uses to root-out misinformation.

Warren's ad came after the company was criticized for allowing Trump's campaign to run an ad which made false claims about former Vice President Joe Biden. Other outlets have refused to air that ad, including NBCUniversal. The Biden campaign sought to have Facebook remove the ad, but Facebook refused.

Last month, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg said in a speech: "It is not our role to intervene when politicians speak."

"The Trump campaign is currently spending $1 million a *week* on ads including ones containing known lies — ads that TV stations refuse to air because they’re false," Warren tweeted. "Facebook just takes the cash, no questions asked."

"Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once through negligence," she continued. "Now, they've changed their policy so they can profit from lies to the American people. It's time to hold Mark Zuckerberg accountable."

Facebook's press team responded to Warren in a tweet, saying the Federal Communications Commission "doesn’t want broadcast companies censoring candidates’ speech."

"We agree it’s better to let voters — not companies — decide," Facebook continued.

Warren fired back, saying, "You're making my point here."

"It’s up to you whether you take money to promote lies," she tweeted. "You can be in the disinformation-for-profit business, or you can hold yourself to some standards. In fact, those standards were in your policy. Why the change?"

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

On Sunday afternoon, Warren again offered criticism of Facebook, posting a link to a story about a $40 million proposed settlement for Facebook having allegedly inflated video metrics.

"Companies shifted their resources and strategies because of Facebook's inflated metrics, costing them money and contributing to job losses," she wrote. "We need to do a lot more to hold Facebook accountable."

The weekend marked the second major clash between Warren and Facebook in recent weeks. Earlier, leaked audio of a Q&A Zuckerberg held with employees revealed that he said Facebook would "go to the mat" and fight if the senator were elected president, which he said would "suck" for Facebook.

Warren hit back, saying: ""What would really 'suck' is if we don’t fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anticompetitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights, and repeatedly fumble their responsibility to protect our democracy."

Warren has pledged to break up a series of major tech giants. Warren has said Facebook should relinquish its ownership of WhatsApp and Instagram.