Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s latest push to break up social media giant Facebook got a boost this week from the social media platform itself.
The Democratic presidential candidate unveiled her latest war against corporate titans last week – a proposal to break up tech companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google by forcing them to separate or sell off parts of their businesses and reverse major mergers. Over the weekend, Facebook handed Warren a prime example of its power: the removal of the Warren presidential campaign’s ads placed on Facebook touting her new policy.
A Facebook spokesperson said Monday that the company originally removed four of Warren’s ads because of a policy violation against using Facebook’s logo, but that it had restored them. The spokesperson pointed to a company policy that bans modified Facebook logos from being featured in ads. Among the Warren ads that were removed included a Facebook “f” surrounded by a comic-book dialogue bubble, along with icons to represent Amazon and Google. The spokesperson also noted that other Warren ads calling for the breakup of Facebook and other companies were not touched because they did not include modified Facebook logos.
Still, Warren was quick to seize on the snafu.
“Curious why I think FB has too much power? Let’s start with their ability to shut down a debate over whether FB has too much power,” she tweeted Monday. “Thanks for restoring my posts. But I want a social media marketplace that isn’t dominated by a single censor. #BreakUpBigTech”
The campaign also sent out a fundraising email off the development, with the subject line: “Facebook took down our ads.”
“Last Friday, Elizabeth announced a big proposal to break up the three biggest tech companies. And then, like we do with most things we want to get the word out about, we put up a video ad about her plan on Facebook,” the email read. “But today, we got a notification from Facebook: They were pulling down our video ads.”
Warren’s latest proposal is just one more sign that as the 2020 presidential election heats up, Silicon Valley and Internet giants are likely to increasingly come under fire from populist candidates. Facebook, in particular, is facing increasing scrutiny from lawmakers on a range of issues, including its market share, the spread of disinformation on the platform and how it handles user data – all issues that are expected to dominate the political conversation in the 2020 election.
Facebook introduced new rules for political advertisers on its platform after it was revealed that a Russian government-linked group targeted Americans with Facebook ads in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election. The group paid for the ads in Russian rubles.
Facebook now requires political advertisers to prove they are in the US by providing the company with information like government-issued identification. The ads must also carry a disclaimer that states who paid for them, but the new system has had its challenges.
Last year, CNN found an anti-Ted Cruz page that had run thousands of dollars’ worth of ads attacking the Texas Republican senator had no information about who was behind it.
Facebook has also taken steps to improve transparency, for example, by making all ads run by political campaigns viewable in a public archive.
In an interview with CNN last year, Rob Leathern, who leads Facebook’s ad transparency program, said the ad archive was a way for Facebook to be held accountable, “even if it means our mistakes are on display.”