by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Michael Brendan Dougherty of National Review Online critiques Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren’s latest proposal involving a social media giant. Warren wants Facebook to certify the truth or falsehood of its political ads.
The interesting question is how the standard Warren is demanding of Facebook would play out in real life. It might very well work against the goal she desires. Unscrupulous campaigns could still flood social-media sites such as Facebook with ads, daring them to take the political risk of cracking down. Worse, her opponents’ ads could effectively use Facebook’s fact-checking as a kind of character witness for their attacks. How would it look for her if Facebook, the progressive behemoth with apparently immense sway over our elections, was seen to be endorsing and certifying Donald Trump’s attacks on her?
Warren says that “Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once through negligence.” This is not knowably true, though liberals and progressives have done their best to claim otherwise since Trump’s election. In 2008 and 2012, Democrats were thrilled that Barack Obama was able to use Facebook very effectively, often exploiting the same techniques they deplored and viewed as conspiratorial when used on a smaller scale by groups aligned with the right. A decade ago, progressives fantasized about social-media-powered revolutions of the young across the world. In the years since, the median age of a Facebook user has gone up dramatically and now resembles the median age of a Donald Trump voter. …
… One thing that’s certain is that the resulting controversy has not helped either our politics or Facebook’s public image (and thus its bottom line). Warren’s standard would have the potential to make future such controversies even more intense.