Facebook funds shadowy lobbying group behind op-eds, ads opposing calls for more regulation: report

Facebook allegedly funded a shadowy lobbying group in secret called American Edge to place op-eds in newspapers, commission studies, and run television ads that attack efforts to regulate the social media platform.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the advocacy group that was founded by Facebook and backed by millions from its parent company Meta is also collaborating with minority business associations, former national security officials, and conservative groups to defeat antitrust legislation.

According to the media outlet, American Edge purportedly plays up fears of cybersecurity attacks from Russia and advanced technology in China which align with sentiments expressed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It has accused political leaders of having a “misguided agenda” and claims they want to “take away the technology we use every day.” The group also alleges that the bill is a danger to small and minority-owned businesses.

The media outlet’s investigation into the group was conducted using copies of records obtained by the tech watchdog group Tech Transparency Project which is funded by the George Soros-founded Open Society Foundations, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Bohemian Foundation, and the Omidyar Network.

Notably, American Edge seems to keep Facebook’s name out of its efforts. An unidentified source told The Washington Post that the move is meant to instill trust among users.

“Facebook can’t be the messenger,” the unnamed source stated. “If we are out there saying it, people won’t believe it as much, so the conversation is how can you set up a proxy.”

After the Senate passed the American Innovation and Choice Online Act in January, American Edge kicked into gear. On February 28, they released an ad that featured Clayton Stanley, who is the president and CEO of Mississippi-based economic development organization The Alliance, that accused politicos in DC of “weakening American technology, threatening jobs and making the U.S. economy more dependent on China.”

Stanley wrote in an op-ed in the Mississippi Business Journal, “Instead of attacking these digital platforms, we need to work with these companies toward innovation and access for our businesses to survive.”

Another ad that aired in April used the war in Ukraine as fodder. It floated a warning from national security officials that Russia and China could gain a “technological edge” on the West as an “unintended consequence” of antitrust regulation.

The ads have aired in all 50 states and have incensed legislators sponsoring the American Innovation and Choice Online Act.

“I see them on television, I see them online all the time,” David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), remarked to the Washington Post. “They’re making our point that these platforms have too much power. They have unlimited resources.”

American Edge seems to have deep pockets. They have allegedly spent more than $70,000 on Google ads and almost $2 million on Facebook ads.

Since Facebook has kept American Edge at arm’s length, the group has been able to “build the appearance of widespread grass-roots opposition” without being “tarnished” by “scandals” associated with the social media platform.

“The Washington Post may not display Amazon’s name on its front page, but the American Edge Project has displayed Facebook’s name prominently on ours since launch,” American Edge CEO Doug Kelly wrote in a statement to the media outlet.

He also noted that although American Edge began with a “seed grant” from Meta, it has also secured funding from other sources.

“As The Washington Post previously reported, we’ve been clear about our support for the American Edge Project’s efforts to educate the public about the benefits of American technology,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told the Washington Post. “But the proposed antitrust reforms would do nothing to address the areas of greatest concern to people and could weaken America’s competitiveness.”

American Edge got its start with a single donation from Facebook of $4 million between December 2019 and October 2020, according to tax records.

The Washington Post is reporting that insiders claim Facebook came up with a plan for the advocacy group ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Facebook reportedly spent more than $20 million in lobbying efforts in 2021 in a brazen attempt to influence tech regulations.

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One thought on “Facebook funds shadowy lobbying group behind op-eds, ads opposing calls for more regulation: report

  1. You don’t have to regulate the tech sector, just pull the 230 legislation and make them accountable with lawsuits.

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