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|14 March, 2019

Facebook's presidential foes are also customers

Many Democratic candidates entering the 2020 presidential race have pledged to reject corporate funds

A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France, June 20, 2018.

A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France, June 20, 2018.

REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO - Facebook's presidential foes are also its customers. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats running for the White House have turned Silicon Valley into a political punching bag, but their campaigns are big users of Facebook and other online platforms. It reflects the power of tech giants and suggests bashing them may not persuade voters.

Many Democratic candidates entering the 2020 presidential race have pledged to reject corporate funds. That makes Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms all the more important to them both to get out their message and to raise money.

That explains why politicians like Senator Warren are active on Facebook, which reaches two out of every three adults in America. Her presidential campaign has spent more than $300,000 to advertise on Mark Zuckerberg’s network so far.

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She has also been the most forceful voice calling for a crackdown on tech. She says Amazon, Alphabet’s  Google and Facebook should be broken up because they have stifled competition and used consumer data for their own profit. Facebook temporarily pulled a few of her ads arguing to break up Big Tech.

Senator Amy Klobuchar is making antitrust one of the cornerstones of her presidential run, calling for stricter privacy and more transparency from Big Tech. She forked over more than $80,000 to reach voters on Facebook.

Other candidates have been critical of Facebook but haven’t called for its breakup. Senators Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris have each spent at least $300,000 on the social network. On Thursday, Beto O’Rourke jumped in. His campaign spent more than $8 million on Facebook ads in his failed Senate race last fall while President Donald Trump’s committees have doled out about $10 million on his re-election bid.

Beating up on Silicon Valley is not top of mind for voters. Likely Democratic Iowa caucus-goers say they want to hear candidates talk the most about health care, climate change and income inequality, according to a new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

While bashing tech has become a favorite Washington pastime, it may not resonate beyond the Beltway and coastal cities. In a crowded Democratic field, candidates need the reach of Facebook. It’s the 21st century version of politics making for strange bedfellows.

On Twitter https://twitter.com/jennifersaba https://twitter.com/jennifersaba,; https://twitter.com/GinaChon

CONTEXT NEWS

- Two entities supporting President Donald Trump’s re-election in 2020 have spent more than $10 million for advertising on Facebook from May 2018 to March 9, 2019, according to a Facebook tally.

- The campaigns of several Democratic candidates who have launched presidential bids in 2019 have each spent at least $300,000 on Facebook ads in the same period. Senator Kamala Harris of California spent $328,000 for nearly 60,000 ad variations. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts spent $364,000 for 2,034 ads, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont doled out $301,000 for 7,654 ads, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota paid more than $83,000 for 686 ads.

- Warren and Klobuchar have proposed plans to increase antitrust scrutiny of the technology sector, with Warren going as far as proposing to break up Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet’s Google and Apple. Trump has also suggested that Amazon and social media networks like Facebook need tougher regulation.

- For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers can click on SABA/ and CHON/

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(The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.)

(Editing by Tom Buerkle and Amanda Gomez) ((jennifer.saba@thomsonreuters.com; gina.chon@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: jennifer.saba.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net; gina.chon.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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