Meta donated $4 million to antitrust lobbying firm
Meta is loosening his paperbacks and digging trenches in preparation for a political war on antitrust legislation that, if lost, could shake his in trouble core business. Although Meta and even CEO Mark Zuckerberg have reluctantly recommended for small reforms in the past, the company has increasingly relied on a little-known lobbying firm called the American Edge Project to spearhead its opposition to wildly popular policy proposals that supporters say will enhance competition in the digital economy.
A new report of the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) cites a Filing 990 of 501(c)(4) of the AEP which shows the The organization received a single donation of $4 million between December 10, 2019 and October 31, 2020. That donation came around the same time that Meta (then Facebook) told the Washington Post that it had contributed at the AEP. Taken together, the report’s authors say these findings imply that Meta not only funds AEP, but may also have been its founder.
TTP says AEP spent about $5.4 million on ad placements last year. Going further, TTP claims that the AEP – working on behalf of Meta – commissioned IPSOS polls in an attempt to trick politicians into thinking their constituents were opposed to antitrust reforms. One such poll, which claimed Democrats would lose their political edge if they pursued tough tech regulation, made its way into an Axios PM newsletter as part of a sponsored post.
“With financial support from Facebook, the American Edge Project succeeded in establishing the specter of a grassroots bipartisan facade to disguise its corporate goals,” the report’s authors write.
So who or what exactly is the AEP anyway? The organization, founded just two years ago, says it’s a coalition ‘dedicated to making the case that America’s innovators are a vital part of economic health, national security and freedoms. individuals of the United States. On his websiteAEP praises U.S. tech companies for creating “a more connected and tolerant world,” and says they are instrumental in maintaining competitiveness with rival countries like China.
Frances Townsend, who served as White House counterterrorism and homeland security adviser during the Georg W. Bush administration, outlines the company’s position on the technology in the video below.
“We cannot allow our adversaries to win the technology race,” says Townsend. “Unless our leaders change course, American citizens and businesses will become more dependent on authoritarian regimes for our technology.”
On the other hand, tech watchdog groups like the Tech Oversight Project have written critical of the AEP, claiming it “obstructed its donors” by portraying itself as a grassroots nonprofit despite Meta’s wholehearted support. Since its inception, The Tech Oversight Project says AEP has coordinated and worked alongside Facebook to vigorously oppose grassroots anti-trust reforms and bolster the power of Big Tech.
“Big Tech lobby shops, including American Edge, are now the biggest spenders in Washington because Facebook and the other Big Tech monopolies know the only way to get support for themselves is to buy it” , the executive director of the Tech Oversight project, Sacha Haworth, told Gizmodo. . “Americans of all ages and political persuasions support these monopolies being held responsible for driving potential rivals out of the market and limiting our choices, which is why it is clear that Congress is adopting the US Online Innovation and Choice Act and the Open App Markets Act now.
In a statement sent to Gizmodo, a spokesperson for Meta tried to downplay the significance of the TTP’s findings, saying it had already disclosed its involvement with AEP two years ago. While this is true, the TTP report highlights the extent of Meta’s involvement with AEP in ways previously unknown. These deep ties, both financial and ideological, point to a reality where AEP is increasingly looking like an expensive spokesperson for Meta.
On the issue of antitrust, Meta said the current reforms being considered by lawmakers “would do nothing to address the issues people care about most and could weaken America’s competitiveness,” two points echoed almost verbatim on the AEP website.
“That’s why we’ve joined many other organizations opposed to these antitrust proposals, while calling on Congress to pass updated internet regulations regarding content moderation, election integrity, and privacy,” the CEO added. spokesperson.
Meta finds himself “against a wall” on regulations
In an interview with Gizmodo, Krista Brown, senior policy analyst for the American Economic Liberties Project, said the new TTP documents aren’t necessarily surprising, but are emblematic of Big Tech’s “absurd” talking points regarding regulation and antitrust.
“Facebook has acquired more than 90 companies and stymied innovation over the years, so claims that they help small businesses and the tech industry in general are baseless,” Brown said. Brown went on to say that Meta’s declining trust among the general public means he can no longer act as an effective spokesperson for his own political goals. This makes seemingly independent companies like AEP all the more attractive. According to Brown, growing support, both from the public and from Congress, for competition reform has left Meta “against a wall.”
According to the TTP report, the AEP paid eight of its coalition members between $7,500 and $25,000 in grants. In return, these members, which include prominent right-wing think tanks like the Lexington Institute, reportedly authored white papers and wrote op-eds in support of the AEP’s political agendas. Several of these editorials attempted to capitalize on some Americans’ fears about China, arguing that increased regulation of US companies could lead to the country losing its technological advantage with China.
Lobbying groups like AEP step up messaging efforts amid looming antitrust legislation
AEP’s spending efforts come as a stolen of anti-Confidence bills are moving slowly through Congress. If even one of them happening, it could mark a tectonic shift in how companies like Meta conduct business and acquire businesses. For years, calls to regulate tech companies have won an overwhelming majority purchase ordinary people, and represents one of the passing political questions still able to amass bipartisan support. This cross-party support has made opposing these policy measures extremely difficult for Big Tech mercenaries.
Last year a survey published by Vox and the left-Leaning firm Data for Progress found that 59% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans said the economic power of Big Tech presented a “problem” for the US economy. Going further, 55% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans said they favor breaking up Big Tech. That shouldn’t be too shocking. Survey after survey lay bare how Big Tech companies (and Meta in particular) have repeatedly burned their trust among the public.
The AEP reportedly sought to create a counter-image of seemingly bipartisan opposition to the reforms, beginning by recruiting former government officials from both political parties, “to present its pro-tech cause as a true bipartisan effort”, notes the TTP report.
“After spending the first year of its public existence trying to elevate public opinion on American tech companies, the AEP can now push back against any proposal for bipartisan antitrust legislation with a supposedly bipartisan counterpoint: that the success of Big Tech and the successes of the American people are inextricably linked,” the report read.
And while legislation limiting the economic power of technology regularly garners broad support, there are signs of the once voracious appetite of the general public to rule in Bi.g Technology may be starting to cool down. According to a new Pew Research survey surveyed last week, 44% of American adults said they favored increased government regulation of tech companies, down from 56% who favored increased regulation the previous year. Those calling for less regulation of tech companies nearly doubled in 2022.hy the reversals of other major polls that have shown growing support for tech regulation in recent years.
Brown of the American Economic Liberties said it’s hard for people to keep technology issues top of mind when there are so many other immediate issues vying for their attention.
“Facebook has been proven time and time again to be untrustworthy for small businesses that are perpetually hurt by Facebook and other big tech companies, but it’s also hard for people to maintain attention on Big Tech as a problem while there’s inflation going on, while there’s Covid, and especially when all of these cases are being uncovered now.