If Senator Elizabeth Warren wins the Democratic nomination, her prime opponent in the general election will not be President Trump. It will be Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
That's because Zuckerberg refuses to halt even the most obvious lies from popping up in political ads on Facebook.
- Juan Williams
"I think we are in the right place on this," he told The Washington Post last week. "In general, in a democracy, I think that people should be able to hear for themselves what politicians are saying."
That's great news for the Russians and President Trump. The Russians continue to use social media, principally Facebook, to stir political division, racial division, and hatred, according to the FBI, the CIA, the Mueller Report, and the Senate Intelligence Committee. Meanwhile, Trump's team is acting on its own to swamp Facebook with lies about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter — and there are no consequences.
Facebook allowed a manipulated video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi to go viral, even though Pelosi pointed out that it was fake and asked for it to be taken down.
Now Warren is campaigning on a promise to break up big tech companies. They are so powerful and so wealthy that they are able to ignore questions about how they are enabling propaganda. By selling politicians the chance to twist the truth and deceive voters, Facebook profits at the expense of the public good.
Warren put it bluntly: Facebook is guilty of taking "money to promote lies. ... A handful of monopolists" should not "dominate our economy and our democracy."
Zuckerberg could largely solve this problem by simply refusing to accept political advertising. It is not a significant source of income for his company, which is worth upwards of $500 billion. Another solution is for Facebook to set its own rules to stop political lies and propaganda. That is what newspapers and cable television companies do.
In both cases, Zuckerberg refuses to act. He did nothing even after the documented abuse of Facebook was proven to be the No. 1 pathway for foreign interference in the 2016 election.
Zuckerberg claims he is protecting America's free speech rights by allowing political spin, distortion, and mockery to flourish on Facebook. People can decide if a politician is telling the truth for themselves, he says. He says he is open to having the government put rules in place. That position allows him to use political paralysis in Washington as a smokescreen.
Warren has a quick, simple solution: Break up these reckless firms. As you can imagine, Zuckerberg opposes Warren's plan.
"If she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge. And does that still suck for us? Yeah," Zuckerberg told his staff in audio leaked to the website The Verge. "But look, at the end of the day, if someone's going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight."
In other words, Zuckerberg has no interest in Warren becoming president. Meanwhile, Trump and his campaign are betting big on the power of social media platforms like Facebook to carry the president to re-election. That explains the elevation of Brad Parscale, whose primary experience is as a digital media guru rather than in political organizing, to be campaign manager.
Thomas B. Edsall, writing in The New York Times, noted that Trump's campaign has spent more than all three leading Democrats on social media. According to CNN, in the last week of September more than 1,800 ads ran on Trump's Facebook page mentioning "impeachment." Those ads wildly distorted reality to make Congress and Democrats into villains attacking a blameless president.
CNN reported: "The ads have been viewed between 16 and 18 million times on Facebook, and the campaign has spent between $600,000 and $2,000,000 on the effort."
Just as the right-wing smear merchants put bogus stories about Uranium One into the 2016 election to damage Hillary Clinton, they are doing the same in 2020 with anti-Biden smears regarding Hunter Biden's position with a Ukrainian gas company. If Facebook continues to allow their platform to be abused by propagandists, they will be giving Trump a giant advantage in the 2020 campaign.
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.