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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

Lawmakers call for Israel-Hamas ceasefire amid aerial bombardments

Combination images of Republican Sen. Todd Young and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy. Photo: Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images/Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and 28 Senate Democrats on Sunday called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as fighting continued into the night.

Driving the news: In the first bipartisan call for a ceasefire, Young, a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, joined its Chair Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) a statement saying: "Israel has the right to defend itself from Hamas' rocket attacks, in a manner proportionate with the threat its citizens are facing.

Bill Gates faces scrutiny over relationship with Microsoft employee, Epstein ties

Photo: Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Representatives for Bill Gates pushed back on claims Sunday that he left Microsoft's board because of an earlier sexual relationship and against two other reports detailing more extensive ties with Jeffrey Epstein than had previously been reported.

Driving the news: Microsoft said in an emailed statement to Axios that it "received a concern" in 2019 that its co-founder "sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000," but denied a Wall Street Journal report that its board members thought Gates should resign over the matter.

AT&T in talks with Discovery to combine media assets

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AT&T is in talks with media giant Discovery about merging its media assets, like CNN, TBS and TNT, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: A potential merger could allow AT&T and Discovery to better compete with entertainment giants like Disney and Netflix in the video streaming wars.