Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat vying for the presidency, didn’t have to search far and wide for ammunition in her salvo against Facebook and other technology giants.
Her own campaign, she said Monday, had become a case study in the need to curtail Facebook’s power, after the company temporarily removed her ads flaying the social networking service as anti-competitive. She used the flap to warn that it was dangerous for cyberspace to be “dominated by a single censor.”
Facebook confirmed that it had briefly removed three ads sponsored by Warren’s presidential campaign that “violated our policies against use of our corporate logo.” The material was nevertheless soon restored following a report in Politico.
"In the interest of allowing robust debate, we are restoring the ads,” the company said in a statement to The Washington Post. Facebook declined to say how Warren’s political ads had been targeted — whether it was human reviewers or the company’s artificial intelligence tools. The service’s advertising policies ban the use of “f” or the Facebook logo in place of the word “Facebook.”
The three ads in question featured an “f” in a text bubble, as well as symbols referring to Amazon and Google. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)
“Three companies have vast power over our economy and our democracy,” read the ads, which were placed Friday. “Facebook, Amazon, and Google. We all use them. But in their rise to power, they’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field in their favor.”
“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” the Democratic lawmaker wrote in a Medium post Friday that outlined her proposal.
Her plan would appoint regulators responsible for reversing certain tech mergers and would advance legislation barring platforms from participating in their own online marketplace, as Amazon does when the e-commerce giant sells goods alongside similar offerings on its website from competitors.
The most forceful approach to date, Warren’s agenda speaks to growing disaffection with Internet juggernauts once carefully courted by Democrats. It sent tremors through Silicon Valley. It’s unclear to what extent her plans will be embraced by her Democratic rivals, some of whom have similarly voiced concern about a “major monopoly problem,” as Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) put it.
Warren, who was the first prominent Democrat to enter the 2020 race for president, has aimed to distinguish herself in the battle of ideas. Other examples include a universal child-care plan and a wealth tax imposing an annual levy of 2 percent on Americans with more than $50 million in assets and 3 percent on those with more than $1 billion.
In a pair of tweets Monday evening, she said Facebook’s actions proved that her ideas were good ones.
A Warren spokeswoman told The Post that the campaign had not leaked news about the removal of the Facebook ads but instead had been contacted about it by a reporter.