Democrats urge federal investigations into whether Facebook misled advertisers

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks to a reporter before the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon on Tuesday, October 5, 2021.
Greg Nash

Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Maria Cantwell (Wash.) are urging federal agencies to investigate whether Facebook misled advertisers by misrepresenting the reach of ads. 

Warren sent letters to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday, following a similar letter Cantwell sent to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Wednesday. 

The senators’ letters build off the allegations laid out by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in her complaints to the SEC.

“Facebook is not above the law. The company’s executives cannot mislead investors, the SEC, its advertising customers, and the public about a core metric of its business model with impunity if such actions violate federal wire fraud or securities laws,” Warren wrote. “Given the allegations of such misconduct, I urge the DOJ and SEC to immediately commence investigations into Facebook’s representations with respect to Potential Reach and, if you find that the company has in fact violated wire fraud or securities laws, to pursue all available criminal and civil sanctions as appropriate.” 

Cantwell wrote to the FTC with a similar request, asking the agency to “immediately commence an investigation.” 

A spokesperson for Meta, the new name of Facebook’s parent company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The pair of letters reflect the growing pressure the tech giant is facing from Washington. 

Lawmakers have held a series of hearings focused on the company since Haugen leaked internal company documents and testified publicly on its business practices. Most recently, Instagram head Adam Mosseri testified Wednesday in front of a Senate Commerce subcommittee, with lawmakers grilling him on the platform’s effect on teens’ mental health. 

Haugen’s allegations that Facebook “misrepresented core metrics to investors and advertisers,” is just part of the allegations laid out in her complaints to the SEC. 

Since coming forward publicly, Haugen has also raised concerns spanning content moderation and children’s safety online. 

Meta has downplayed Haugen’s comments, arguing that the research released in the leaked documents is being mischaracterized.

Tags Elizabeth Warren Facebook Frances Haugen Maria Cantwell META Social media

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