With all the other campaign news sweeping across the media landscape, I’ll confess that I totally missed the story about Facebook censoring Elizabeth Warren. I only noticed it when someone pointed out this tweet from her “thanking” Facebook for “restoring her posts.”
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. Thanks for restoring my posts. But I want a social media marketplace that isn't dominated by a single censor. #BreakUpBigTech https://t.co/UPS6dozOxn
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 11, 2019
Wait. You mean she posted something on Facebook calling for the breakup of Big Tech (including Facebook) and they censored her? That’s outrageous!
Well… not so much. That was a very misleading tweet. First of all, those weren’t “posts” from Warren that were taken down. They were small, paid advertisements. And they weren’t refused because of her opinions about the social media giant. The ads broke the company’s advertising rules. Here’s a good explanation from Reason’s Scott Shackford.
To summarize, Warren attempted to purchase advertising on Facebook to promote her campaign to break up big tech, including Facebook. Three of her advertisements contained one of Facebook’s logos. Those ads (but not her others—that’s important to note) were rejected temporarily because Facebook has rules against using their logos in advertisements. The reasoning behind this is extremely logical—to avoid the possibility of confusing Facebook users over the difference between ads and “official” messages from Facebook itself.
So, to be blunt here, Warren’s campaign screwed up with its ad design. It’s all their own stupid fault for including the logo. But, no, Warren is spinning this as proof that Facebook is too powerful because it’s able to “shut down debate” about Facebook.
So the advertisements (not posts) had the Facebook logo in them. You’re not allowed to do that. Not only is the logo the copyrighted property of the company, but they don’t want advertisements in the sidebars showing up in ways that might trick people into thinking it was Facebook’s own content. Also very much worth noting is the fact that these were only three of a much larger number of advertisements Warren took out calling for breaking up Facebook. The other ads without the logo were all run without question.
This flurry of social media activity plays right into Warren’s hands, of course. What better way to push a theme of censorship and Big Tech oppression than by flogging a story about Facebook censoring content about Facebook’s censorship? (Even if it’s totally false.) You can rest assured that Warren’s original assertion of censorship will be shared thousands of times more often than any correction of the record. And if she’s ever pressed about it by the media (highly unlikely) she can simply write it off as a typo or an autocorrect fail or something. It’s a win-win!
Does Facebook need to be “broken up” at this point? It’s a vastly flawed and highly biased platform, much like Twitter, and their data and privacy protection issues are legendary, but it’s not a public utility. There are plenty of other options out there for users who don’t wish to give their data away to the Zuckerberg army. Asking the government to break up the company is just more nanny state nonsense. If you don’t like Facebook, don’t use it. (I haven’t looked at my own Facebook page in months aside from checking comments in a few non-political groups I used to follow.)
Elizabeth Warren is struggling in the primary polls and needs to stake out an issue that might set her apart from the field. This is apparently an effort to do just that, but it’s not starting off well.