Sep 22, 2017

Mark Zuckerberg's real campaign

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Noah Berger / AP

When Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg announced yesterday that he would turn over to Congress some 3,000 ads bought by Russian operatives during the 2016 election, and impose new rules for political ads, it was part of a campaign. But it's not some future "Zuck for president" campaign, a notion stoked by moves like the hiring of former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe as president of policy and advocacy at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Facebook founder and CEO's philanthropy.

Zuckerberg's candidate is Facebook, and its political base is in serious jeopardy:

  • 2017 is its election cycle, and Facebook is on the defensive as it tries to navigate a backlash against its unregulated platform, the most powerful web of connectivity and personal data the world has known.
  • Zuckerberg's national tour of real America started just after the Russians used Facebook to try to tip our presidential election.
  • The company launched micro-targeted campaigns to win over the media, with greater promises of monetization and collaboration.
  • Now, both parties are talking about greater scrutiny and regulation of Facebook. At the same time, lawmakers are demanding more transparency about what it knew and how much it made of Russia's fake news factories.
  • In the most specific Hill move so far, Democrats Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Mark Warner (Va.) yesterday circulated a "Dear Colleague letter," obtained by Axios, seeking co-sponsors for legislation that "would formalize, and expand, the transparency commitments Facebook has made."

Be smart: Although yesterday's concessions reflect the seriousness with which Facebook takes its D.C. problems (Zuckerberg made the announcement on his first day back from a month of paternity leave), Republicans tell me the company doesn't yet fully realize now "rabidly upset" many conservatives are.

  • Conservatives in Washington and around the country, famous for pushing back on government, plan to be increasingly vocal in arguing that self-regulation isn't working with the tech giants.

Go deeper: Axios CEO Jim VandeHei, in his leadership principles, "The Axios Way": "Think of your brand as a political candidate. You need to be hyper-aware of how you're seen by your core constituencies (employees and customers) and by the broader public."

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Sign of the times: A pro-Warren super PAC

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a rally in Nevada. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A group of women progressives who back Sen. Elizabeth Warren has formed Persist PAC, a super PAC airing pro-Warren ads starting Wednesday in an effort to boost her performance ahead of Saturday's crucial Nevada caucuses, a spokesman told Axios.

Why it matters: Warren has spoken adamantly against the influence of unlimited spending and dark money in politics. But these supporters have concluded that before Warren can reform the system, she must win under the rules that exist — and that whether she likes it or not, their uncoordinated help may be needed to keep her viable through this weekend's contest and into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Pentagon policy chief resigns amid reported discord with Trump

John Rood. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

John Rood, the Pentagon's top policy official, will resign from his post at the end of the month, CNN first reported and President Trump confirmed.

The state of play: CNN said Rood "was perceived as not embracing some of the changes in policy the White House and senior Pentagon officials wanted," such as peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban and a decision to cut back on military exercises with South Korea as the president courted North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

Coronavirus cases rise, as warnings of global pandemic grow

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

We may be "at the brink" of a global pandemic, warns a top U.S. public health official, as cases continue to spread despite containment efforts. Meanwhile, the global economy is being affected, including the tech manufacturing industry.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,000 people and infected over 75,000 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 136 new deaths since Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health