Left-wing billionaire Pierre Omidyar is funding a constellation of advocacy organizations and campaigns targeting tech giant Facebook for its alleged harms to users, including the proliferation of “hate speech” and “misinformation” on its platform.
Omidyar, the founder of eBay, has long been a vocal critic of Facebook and major tech companies in general, funding research into how best to break up the tech giant and providing financial backing for advocacy group “The Real Facebook Oversight Board” that publishes frequent criticism of it.
Omidyar’s crusade against Facebook garnered recent attention following a report by Politico that Omidyar was providing funding and strategic support to former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, who has testified before the Senate and other legislative bodies around the world calling for stricter regulation of the tech giant. Haugen also leaked internal Facebook documents and communications to The Wall Street Journal, and filed several whistleblower complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleging Facebook misled its investors by failing to adequately disclose its platforms’ negative effects.
Omidyar serves as chair of philanthropy organization Luminate, which is currently providing strategic government relations and media support to Haugen. Luminate and the Omidyar Network, one of Omidyar’s grant-making organizations, are also funding Reset, an anti-Big Tech group led by former Hillary Clinton campaign adviser Ben Scott which is assisting Haugen in her lobbying efforts.
Reset’s mission includes efforts to “silence hate speech,” “expose disinformation” and “block toxic harassment,” according to its website. The group has advocated for a number of policies aimed at strengthening government oversight of online speech and has published several pieces targeting Facebook for its inadequate content moderation policies and amplification algorithms, including one piece that answers “yes” to the question: “Did Facebook and Google break democracy?”
Reset did not respond when asked to comment on its relationship with Omidyar.
Omidyar also donated $150,000 to Whistleblower Aid, a legal advocacy group founded by Mark Zaid which is representing Haugen in her whistleblower complaints, Politico reported. Omidyar is providing financial backing for the Center for Humane Technology, a non-profit currently leading a campaign to pressure Facebook to restrict sharing tools and which currently employs Democratic operative Bill Burton, who is handling public relations for Haugen.
In addition to his support for Haugen, Omidyar is funding numerous non-profits, petitions and initiatives attacking Facebook on several fronts including for its alleged anti-competitive business practices, its policies regarding online content and its collecting of user data.
Many of the organizations Omidyar funds are demanding stricter government oversight of online speech, targeting “misinformation” and “hate speech” as particular areas of concern.
According to the Omidyar Network’s list of partners working towards “pluralism,” the fund partnered with and contributed $125,000 in 2020 to Allied Media Projects, a non-profit advocacy organization and advocate for left-wing causes whose mission includes efforts to “dismantle supremacist systems as they operate upon us and within us.” Allied Media Projects did not respond when reached for comment.
One of Allied Media Projects’ initiatives, according to its website, is the Kairos Fellowship, which “engages in advocacy campaigns against anti-democratic ideology through internet-based platforms, media companies, and policy creation, while fighting for stronger regulation of the internet and tech companies.” Kairos has advocated for removing misinformation and disinformation on Facebook, urging Zuckerberg to ban certain Facebook Groups, and called for Facebook’s Oversight Board to uphold the tech giant’s ban of former President Donald Trump.
Kairos led dozens of other organizations, many of which are also funded by Omidyar, in a campaign known as The Facebook Logout which concluded Nov. 10 asking Facebook users to boycott the social media platform.
The campaign included a list of demands, such as the resignation of Mark Zuckerberg, less collecting of user data, and stronger policing of user content. In particular, the campaign demanded Facebook “tackle misinformation and disinformation” by turning off “algorithmic manipulation” of “false content” and censoring “white supremacist” content.
“By the time the pro-Trump mob was storming the capitol on January 6th, disinformation and conspiracy theories had been compiling [on Facebook] for months, fueling the violent, attempted coup,” the campaign demands read.
Several of the other groups who led the campaign are also funded by Omidyar, including the Action Center For Race And Economy (ACRE), MediaJustice, and Free Press.
MediaJustice, which received $800,000 from Omidyar’s Luminate, helped organize a campaign called “Change the Terms” which called, among the other things, for the “the firing of VP Joel Kaplan,” a Republican and Facebook’s vice president of global public policy, because he hired a “right-wing PR firm.” MediaJustice did not respond to a request for comment.
The organization also signed onto a letter sent Nov. 11 along with ACRE and Free Press calling for Zuckerberg’s resignation. The letter cited concerns over “hate speech” and “misinformation” and questioned Zuckerberg’s leadership abilities.
MediaJustice, Free Press and Kairos are also members of the Disinfo Defense League, a group that aims to “disrupt online racialized disinformation” and campaigns to “stop the spread of racist and bigoted content designed to demean, divide, disorient and harm our communities.”
Free Press, the political arm of which received $100,000 from the Omidyar Network in 2020, launched an initiative following the Facebook whistleblower leaks demanding the federal government regulate the tech giant. The campaign calls on “all agencies with civil-rights authority” to regulate “algorithmic decision-making.”
“We have known for years that social media and tech platforms are vectors for extremism, racism, misogyny, lies and violence,” the campaign reads, arguing that “it’s past time for policymakers in Washington to confront the hate-and-lie-for-profit business model of tech platforms.”
The Omidyar Network also funds the American Economic Liberties Project (AELP) and the Open Markets Institute, two left-of-center organizations focusing on antitrust reform who have pushed to break up major tech companies including Facebook. Current Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Lina Khan, who is leading an active antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, previously served as legal director of the Open Markets Institute.
Sarah Miller, executive director of AELP, is leading a petition demanding criminal investigations of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg. The petition, which has garnered close to 20,000 signatures, alleges “Facebook executives including Zuckerberg and Sandberg have privately discussed plans to deceive investors, regulators, and clients in building their empire,” and demands the SEC, the FTC, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) commence criminal probes into their behavior.
“Your predecessors have allowed white-collar crime to go unchecked for years. You have an opportunity to reverse that trend,” the petition reads, addressed to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and SEC Chairman Gary Gensler.
The Omidyar Network did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment on its advocacy against Facebook.
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