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What Pete Buttigieg Now Says About Facebook, Big Tech

October 24, 2019, 8:13 PM UTC
New Hampshire Democratic Party State Convention
Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg is taking a tougher stance toward big tech. The candidate is pictured at last month's New Hampshire Democratic Party State Convention. Nic Antaya—The Boston Globe/Getty Images
Nic Antaya—The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said Thursday that Facebook’s policy to not filter out phony political ads is “a mistake” and breaking up big tech companies should be “on the table.”

The social media giant has “a responsibility to pull false advertising and…to intervene when there is advertising that would contribute to voter suppression,” Butttigieg told reporters after hosting an economic policy event in New Hampshire. (On Monday, Facebook said it is extending a policy created for the 2018 midterm elections banning voter-suppression content.)

The mayor of South Bend, Ind., has come under criticism from 2020 rival Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who charges Buttigieg is too cozy with Facebook. Buttigieg’s aides confirmed this week his campaign hired two digital analytics staff recommended by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

Zuckerberg has defended Facebook’s refusal to take down content it considers newsworthy “even if it goes against our standards,” in an effort to steer clear of criticism that Facebook was infringing on First Amendment rights to free speech. In response to a question last week on fact-checking during his appearance at Georgetown University, Zuckerberg said, “We think people should be able to see for themselves.”

Warren also has called for breaking up Zuckerberg’s conglomerate, which includes Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

Buttigieg, at 37, is the first candidate of the Facebook generation, and was an early adopter of the social media platform. But, he said Thursday, federal regulators, with the power to protect consumers and address “anti-competitive practices,” should consider remedies that include a breakup. (Attorneys general from 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, are already scrutinizing Facebook’s business practices for potential antitrust violations of stifling competition or putting users at risk.)

“Yes, I believe that breakup of big companies is a remedy that should be on the table,” he said. “Now, I don’t think that that should be declared in advance by a politician.”

Warren told reporters in Iowa on Monday that Facebook and its affiliates “already have way too much influence in Washington.”

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