The famed conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, rejected six-figure donations from technology companies Google and Facebook because, it argues, they are crusading against conservative speech.
The Heritage Foundation is supported by the fact that YouTube (owned by Google), Facebook, Twitter and other Big Tech companies have been exerting a strong control over right-wing rhetoric on their platforms, hiding behind their internal policies.
In that sense, the think tank flatly rejected donations from companies owned by Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Facebook and Google respectively.
The Heritage Foundation’s outgoing president, Kay Coles James, wrote in late October two scathing letters addressed to Zuckerberg and Pichai rejecting their donations of $150,000 and $225,000 respectively.
“Dear Mr. Pichai, I am writing to inform you that the Heritage Foundation will not accept the $225,000 donation that Google has offered this year. We cannot, in good conscience, accept money from a company that repeatedly and blatantly suppresses conservative speech on its platforms,” reads the letter to Pichai.
The beginning of the letter addressed to Zuckerberg is similar. James mentions, among other things, Facebook’s controversial decision to limit the New York Post’s exclusive on Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine a few weeks before the presidential election was contested.
Heritage also criticized and accused Facebook of limiting the reach of its news outlet the Daily Signal, and of consistently harming the think tank with imposed censorship.
Notably, the Post story did not turn out to be disinformation or hacking, as some Big Tech initially argued to limit the link’s dissemination. The explanations as to why the article was limited and censored have not satisfied much of the public opinion.
It should be recalled that the letters came to public light on Thursday, March 25, hours before Pichai and Zuckerberg testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The two CEOs underwent tough questioning from both Republican and Democratic representatives. The former probed about censorship and defended conservative citizens’ freedom of speech online. The latter, on the other hand, questioned the directors of both companies as to why they did not make a greater effort to prevent “electoral disinformation on networks”.
Facebook and Google were also criticized for their responsibility in the assault on the Capitol, which took place on January 6, since it was alleged that the social media were an important place for the takeover to take place.
“We did our job to guarantee the integrity of the elections. And then, on January 6, President Trump gave a speech in which he rejected the results and called on people to fight back,” Zuckerberg said in his defense.
In the letter to Google’s CEO, James lamented the company’s lack of concern for resolving the problem of censorship against conservatives and the Heritage Foundation itself:
As you know, we have tried in the past to work with Google to address complaints about bias
against conservatives in how they enforce community standards. We approached this work in
hopes that your company’s leadership was serious about applying uniform standards for political speech. Unfortunately, Google has proved time and again that our efforts are pointless. We sometimes get apologies, but nothing changes.
I don’t think I need to recite the many examples of bias against conservatives on your platforms. But I will note that your YouTube subsidiary has twice censored videos produced by The Heritage Foundation and our news site, The Daily Signal.
The letter to Zuckerberg was followed suit in tone and James took aim at Facebook’s bias and the platform’s”independent” fact-checkers:
“The Heritage Foundation has too often fallen victim to Facebook’s double standards. Referrals to our news site Daily Signal, for example, have dropped from 600,000 sessions in July to just 105,000 so far in October. What other explanation is there other than an attempt to block a respected conservative news outlet from reaching Facebook users? We have also fallen victim to the supposedly unbiased third-party fact-checkers that Facebook now uses as content gatekeepers. Every time a new form of censorship comes to light, your company apologizes and promises to do better. Enough with the apologies. Fix it.”
James also lamented Facebook’s turnaround from a free platform, where dissent and debate was the norm, to a social media rather limited for right-wing discourse: “I must say that I am deeply saddened by these developments. Facebook promised much as a platform for the free exchange of ideas. But your company has squandered it by allowing its employees to censor opinions they don’t like. Until this changes, the Heritage Foundation will no longer be able to accept donations from Facebook.”