In January 2017, Facebook hired a former NBC news anchor, Campbell Brown. The goal was to create Facebook News, the social media company's "news partnerships team."
In addition to her duties establishing Facebook's "quality news" feature in a dedicated tab, Brown runs her own news outlet: The 74.
The 74 is not owned by nor officially affiliated with Facebook. It is unclear if it will earn a trusted news source designation like Facebook News under Brown's direction gave Breitbart News.
However, like Breitbart, The 74 is affiliated with a member of the Trump administration. The news outlet was created with a grant from Betsy DeVos' family foundation.
Brown also serves on the board of DeVos' The American Federation for Children (AFC). The nonprofit supports and funds Republican candidates.
In addition to connections with the Trump administration, Brown made The Daily Caller—a conservative publication known for its White nationalism, homophobia, transphobia and racism an "official Facebook fact-checking partner." Brown was also the one to defend naming Breitbart a "quality news source."
When writer Judd Legum discovered the Brown/DeVos connection, he also discovered The 74's recent favorite target is Massachusetts Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. DeVos—who personally profits from student debt, charter schools and promotes parochial education and the elimination of public schools—is no fan of Warren's platform of increased taxes for billionaires and reduction or elimination of student loan debt.
In The 74, Warren is described as:
- a millionaire who raves about socialism
- Republican before she was a Democrat
- for school choice before she was against it
- for charter schools before she was against them
- for standardized testing before she was against it
- Native American before she wasn't
- the 2nd coming of Karl Marx
- cut-and-paste genuflect to the public relations departments of America's national teachers unions
Brown is forthcoming about her connection to Facebook and The 74. But when Legum sent Facebook a list of questions about Brown, DeVos, Warren and a potential conflict of interest, he received a simple statement:
"The 74 is not part of Facebook News. Campbell's work with The 74 is well-known and she's been transparent about her role with the nonprofit for many years. Any suggestion otherwise is baseless."
When Legum published the statement, he eliminated the last sentence.
For this, Facebook Newsroom's Twitter account went on the offensive with a retweet of a post from the editor-in-chief of The 74—despite there being no connection between the two according to Facebook.
Our entire statement to @JuddLegum, which he edited, is: "The 74 is not part of Facebook News. Campbell’s work with… https://t.co/7EmVM5Ben1— Facebook Newsroom (@Facebook Newsroom)1573493624.0
The Facebook attack against Legum did not go over well on Twitter.
@fbnewsroom @JuddLegum You guys include Breitbarf in your 'trusted news sources.' You guys take over a million a we… https://t.co/eD2bDLzVKr— Old Grey Horror (@Old Grey Horror)1573500189.0
@fbnewsroom @JuddLegum You guys have done nothing at all to atone for the @CamAnalytica scandal. You let crooks ste… https://t.co/JowH4nKRV0— Old Grey Horror (@Old Grey Horror)1573500269.0
@fbnewsroom @JuddLegum This is why Facebook does not belong in the information industry. They themselves are not a… https://t.co/98rpfTCPJY— The Keeper (@The Keeper)1573500557.0
@fbnewsroom @JuddLegum Campbell Brown refused to talk to @JuddLegum in the first place. Are you ready to admit that… https://t.co/fIli8R66xn— Lisa Is Preparing For 2020 ✊🍺 (@Lisa Is Preparing For 2020 ✊🍺)1573502676.0
@fbnewsroom @JuddLegum What bad faith bullshit this is @fbnewsroom @facebook. Same as it ever was.— Brooke Binkowski (@Brooke Binkowski)1573504974.0
@brooklynmarie @fbnewsroom @JuddLegum @facebook Zuck can’t stop lying. Then he meets with the most curious characte… https://t.co/wjP5ELxhJz— kicking squealing gucci little boomer (@kicking squealing gucci little boomer)1573506143.0
@fbnewsroom @JuddLegum Judd Legum NEVER WROTE OR IMPLIED that The 74 is part of FB News. Why are you accusing him o… https://t.co/gMp2KwJATX— Lauren (@Lauren)1573514941.0
In addition to backlash for their ill advised tweet, Legum also provided a response to the attack.
1. Facebook's top news executive is Campbell Brown — she's in charge of Facebook's new "Facebook News" tab Brown… https://t.co/5sKqPOk9wJ— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum)1573478689.0
2. Brown's media outlet, The 74, has recently described as "the second coming of Karl Marx," "a millionaire who rav… https://t.co/VzHr5yF0m3— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum)1573478910.0
3. I believe this is the first time Facebook has ever attacked an individual journalist through its official accoun… https://t.co/HLJATtH3yi— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum)1573500672.0
4. Wouldn't Facebook object to this dual role for Brown? Quite the opposite: Zuckerberg donated $600K this year to… https://t.co/dhPo5j6UGH— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum)1573479460.0
5. Brown maintained an active role at The 74 after accepting her position w/Facebook. According to documents filed… https://t.co/oca3Xwu6pQ— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum)1573479629.0
7. Brown has defended the inclusion of Breitbart, the noxious right-wing site known for laundering white nationalis… https://t.co/WszUWctAoU— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum)1573483185.0
8. Related reading: https://t.co/5mBoi8301s— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum)1573484339.0
@JuddLegum Well THAT'S not suspicious at all 🤔 I trust @SenWarren @ewarren is completely aware of this dirty, two-f… https://t.co/UMeusYljG9— Syzygus (@Syzygus)1573487102.0
By Monday afternoon, Brown also decided to respond. However several claims she made were quickly fact checked and came up lacking.
1. @campbell_brown responds to my article on The 74. Here she claims that Facebook isn't supporting The 74. She fai… https://t.co/Gm2IhtgINe— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum)1573494062.0
@campbell_brown 2. Here @campbell_brown dismisses the pieces savaging Elizabeth Warren because they are "opinion" p… https://t.co/NurheH7Ove— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum)1573494212.0
3. Here @campbell_brown says that she didn't respond to my detailed questions about her role at The 74 because I do… https://t.co/D9ck5AQTdI— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum)1573494402.0
As with Facebook Newsroom's response, it probably would have been better to not respond instead of responding with easily disproven lies.
@JuddLegum @campbell_brown Do these ppl know how them interwebz work? U’d think since she joined @facebook ...yah s… https://t.co/kUWe93r5eq— Anna Kosturova (@Anna Kosturova)1573501035.0
What actions Facebook will take, if any, to eliminate conflicts of interest in their news division remains to be seen. But for now, Campbell Brown's presence appears to be more detrimental than helpful in bolstering public confidence.
@JuddLegum @campbell_brown Not hard to figure out the value of Fakebook News.— Der Kevin (@Der Kevin)1573495971.0
The book The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google is available here.