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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An ad by Sen. Elizabeth Warren's campaign that says Facebook has endorsed President Trump (before admitting the claim is a lie) is having its intended effect: raising tough questions about Facebook's policy of allowing politicians to make any claims they want.

Why it matters: Facebook has spent much of the last 2 years talking about its efforts to protect elections. But while Facebook is cracking down on foreign interference and deliberate voter suppression, it is giving political candidates carte blanche to distort and deceive.

Driving the news:

  • Facebook has green-lighted an ad from President Trump that makes false claims about Joe Biden. (So have Twitter and YouTube.)
  • Elizabeth Warren posted an advertisement saying falsely that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg had endorsed Donald Trump. In the post, she quickly acknowledges that's not actually true, but says that by allowing falsehoods, Zuckerberg has "given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform — and then to pay Facebook gobs of money."

Facebook responded on Twitter Saturday that broadcast stations across the country aired this ad nearly 1,000 times, as required by law. "FCC doesn't want broadcast companies censoring candidates' speech," Facebook said. "We agree it's better to let voters — not companies — decide."

Yes, but: The broadcast networks operate under unique rules because they are using public airwaves. Businesses operating in nearly every other type of media can (and often do) set their own rules, including cable, internet and outdoor media.

History lesson: Every company or person who has ever been in charge of a platform, a message board, or a comments area knows that trolls are going to take any rule about acceptable content and stress-test it from a zillion directions.

  • The problem here is what to do when those pushing the boundaries aren't everyday trolls, but rather the president of the United States and one of his leading challengers. 

Facebook, for its part, has invested a lot in creating a more systematic approach to evaluating content, clarifying its community standards, bringing in third-party fact checkers, and setting up an independent "Supreme Court" appeals board to provide a final say. (Facebook says it's focusing the fact checkers' limited time on memes and hoaxes, not politicians' words.)

  • Facebook argues it should take a nearly completely hands-off approach to what politicians say in their paid advertisements, and it's not alone — many critics, as well, don't want to see the social network set the boundaries of political speech. (See below for just what the social network is and isn't allowing.)

My thought bubble: As political ads inevitably keep testing Facebook's boundaries, the company's best solution may be to stop taking them altogether (as some transit agencies have, for example) — trading a modest revenue loss for the opportunity not to be blamed for swinging a second election in a row.

Go deeper: Zuckerberg talks Warren's "existential" breakup threat in leaked audio

Go deeper

Airlines call for Biden admin's "immediate intervention" in 5G deployment

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The CEOs of leading U.S. air cargo and passenger carriers on Monday warned the Biden administration there could be "catastrophic disruption" after AT&T and Verizon deploy a new 5G service this week.

Driving the news: They said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other top federal officials ahead of the C-Band 5G service's deployment Wednesday that "the nation's commerce will grind to a halt" and "could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas."

Updated 3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

6 hours ago - Health

CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the messaging around the COVID-19 pandemic and changing guidance should have been clearer.

State of play: Walensky is being coached by media experts and is planning to have more press briefings by herself in order to ensure that CDC is seen as an independent, scientific entity, rather than as a political one, the Journal reports.