No, Mark Zuckerberg did not endorse Donald Trump, as Elizabeth Warren said in stunt ad

Did Mark Zuckerberg endorse Donald Trump for president? No. 

Zuckerberg has not endorsed Trump; the ads set the record straight two sentences below the attention-grabbing claim.

Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said she took out ads with this made-up assertion to prove her point that Facebook accepts political ads with false claims in them. 

"The Trump campaign is currently spending $1 million a *week* on ads including ones containing known lies — ads that TV stations refuse to air because they’re false. Facebook just takes the cash, no questions asked," Warren tweeted

Here at PolitiFact, we can’t recall a politician repeating misinformation only to immediately recant it, in order to make a larger point. Some people might think it’s clever. 

But in the current environment, spreading false news even as a prank is no laughing matter. People glance at headlines without reading the rest of the post. We’ve received an email from a reader who was genuinely confused, as well as other emails from people asking if we were going to rate this. In this day and age, people glance at headlines and sometimes don’t get any further. Warren should not have created and shared the post about Zuckerberg, even to make a point.

We’ll set the record straight like this: No, Mark Zuckerberg did not endorse Donald Trump for president, as Elizabeth Warren said. 

We asked the Warren campaign to address concerns that their ad spread false information and potentially caused public confusion. The campaign pointed us back to Warren’s tweets that she did it to critique Facebook. 

Warren has several complaints about Facebook. One of them is that Facebook exempts political ads from its third-party fact-checking program. 

PolitiFact is a partner in that program. It works like this: Facebook shares potentially false posts with a field of certified fact-checking organizations, including PolitiFact. The fact-checkers choose the items they can or want to investigate. The fact-checkers then let Facebook know our findings. If we, the independent fact-checkers, find a claim to be false, Facebook downgrades it and readers are flagged to that finding. Facebook pays us for the work but has no say whatsoever in the findings. We also publish all our findings on our own websites. Some of these debunkings are the most popular items on our site, with people reaching them through Facebook or searching the false claims’ keywords. 

Warren is correct that Facebook does not seek or pay for fact-checking of claims directly from political candidates. Most of the checks are from political groups, or even hoaxes from purveyors of so-called fake news. PolitiFact regularly fact-checks what the politicians say, but that work is our core journalism and has gone on long before Facebook enlisted fact checkers to help. Our own findings aren’t shared with Facebook, and are not downgraded on Facebook.  This policy of exempting political ads and politicians’ statements has been the norm since Facebook launched the program; Warren called it a "new policy," but it’s not. 

Warren also claimed that most TV networks reject inaccurate ads; this is not accurate, either. Broadcast networks are required to accept ads even if they’re false. Cable networks have more latitude, but they too generally accept ads that are false if they have no other objection to the content. 

RELATED FACT-CHECK: Warren says TV networks reject ads that Facebook just accepts: Mostly False

Meanwhile, we should note there’s been also criticism of the Facebook fact-checking program from the Republican side of the aisle. Four GOP senators — Mike Braun of Indiana, Ted Cruz of Texas, Kevin Cramer of Nebraska, and Josh Hawley of Missouri — sent a letter to Facebook complaining about bias in a fact-check of the group Live Action and its statement that abortion "is never medically necessary;" the claim was found to be inaccurate by the fact-checking group Science Feedback. The senators’ letter also claimed ongoing bias against conservatives and anti-abortion groups. 

After an investigation, the International Fact-Checking Network found Science Feedback’s fact-check to be fair and accurate — though it did note that Live Action’s disclosure of the background of one of its sources was incomplete. (The IFCN and PolitiFact are both part of the nonprofit Poynter Institute.) 

Whatever response politicians have to these issues, they should stay on the side of factuality and accuracy. Creating false news, even to make a point, is a rhetorical move that we hope does not become a trend.