Facebook banned an ad by US presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren that called for it and other big tech companies to be broken up, saying that the ad violated its rules, before changing course and allowing it to remain up.
Politico reported on Monday that the Silicon Valley social networking giant had blocked ads by the leftwing Democratic politician that touted her plan to take regulatory action to split up Facebook, Amazon, and Google if she becomes the next US president, citing their “vast power over our economy and our democracy.”
A Facebook spokesperson told the news outlet that Facebook “removed the ads because they violated our policies against use of our corporate logo” — but that it would restore them “in the interest of allowing robust debate.” Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Elizabeth Warren’s ad criticized the three tech firms, saying”it’s time to break up these big companies so they don’t have so much power over everyone else.” It included a one-and-a-half minute video highlighting news stories about allegedly anti-competitive behavior from Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and briefly includes a stylized version of Facebook’s logo to represent the company. (The ad is viewable in full in Facebook’s political Ad Archive.)
Facebook’s ad policies place restrictions on how advertisers may use Facebook’s logos and brand names, in an attempt to avoid misleading ads or ones that might appear to suggest Facebook is endorsing the advertiser. It’s this rule that Facebook says Elizabeth Warren’s campaign violated.
The incident was swiftly rectified, but it served to illustrate the extraordinary level of power Facebook has to regulate online discourse today — and how criticism of the company, if not framed carefully, can inadvertently run afoul of its rules.
Elizabeth Warren subsequently responded on Twitter, tweeting: “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”
This isn’t the first time critics of Facebook have fallen foul of its checks.
Investigative reporting outlet Reveal pointed out on Twitter on Monday that it had previously been blocked from running ads about one of its stories on Facebook’s business practices around kids’ in-game purchases, and “only approved the ad after we reached out to their comms team.”
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