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Letter to the House Subcommittee on Antitrust and Committee on the Judiciary

June 12, 2020

David N. Cicilline, Chair

F. James Sensenbrenner, Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Cicilline and Ranking Member Sensenbrenner:

Facebook’s role in promoting and inflaming violence around the national justice protests is yet another reminder that the company has grown too big to manage and its current leadership is too craven to trust.

Facebook employees are walking off the job in disgust at the company’s refusal to enforce its own policies on hate speech and encouraging violence, most notoriously in the case of the President’s inflammatory statements about shooting suspected looters. The company’s “private groups” feature – heavily advertised as a safer, more actively moderated community place – are melting down around this issue and the company’s failure to provide meaningful controls, resources, and guidance for moderators. And reports are only beginning to emerge of law enforcement using poorly secured Facebook postings to spy on those who have participated on the streets.

Mark Zuckerberg attempted to quell the furor over his company’s failure to develop and execute a responsible, transparent approach to the misuse of its platforms in connection with social justice protests with an Open Letter declaring Black Lives Matter and a $10 million donation to racial justice causes. Your subcommittee of course has seen this playbook before, the Zuckerberg apology tour used to distract from the company’s furious backroom lobbying, distortion, spin, and inaction.

Chairman Cicilline has long championed greater transparency for dark money, astroturf groups, including in his longstanding advocacy for the DISCLOSE Act. In the same spirit that animates that effort, the conviction that the American people and their elected representatives should know the real special interests hiding behind these sham organizations, we call your attention to American Edge, recently exposed even before its formal launch as Facebook by another name. Like Google’s “Engine,” American Edge and Facebook should be viewed as one and the same.

It’s through that lens that we review the recent pro-justice statements fronting the websites of the consultants reportedly responsible for this group. It’s appalling to see major Democratic-led corporate PR/Advocacy megafirms claim “solidarity with the Black community” and declare “It’s time for brands to step up” while they simultaneously work to help Facebook shut down the oversight, accountability, and reform that would actually make social media safer for communities of color.

We have separately written American Edge’s consultants questioning how Democratic firms can pull the strings behind a Facebook front group given the company’s well-documented role spreading hate, fostering social discord, and undermining democracy.

Now as the Committee continues to review the dangers of the Facebook monopoly, we urge you not to lose sight of this additional dimension of the threat – the power of companies this powerful to manufacture support, shape the policy environment, and even buy “cover” from supposedly diverse communities. It’s the Zuck apology tour on steroids – and no one should be fooled.

As both Facebook and its Potemkin “American Edge” front group hide behind the flag of racial justice while dividing Americans, amplifying hate groups, and working to derail accountability and oversight, we urge you to recognize American Edge as little more than re-packaged Facebook and to give its claims and pronouncements – whether about innovation and algorithms or racial justice and solidarity – the same degree of skepticism you apply to those of the corporate mother ship itself.

Sincerely,

Sarah Miller & David Segal, Co-Chairs Freedom From Facebook and Google





cc: Nancy Pelosi, Speaker

Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader

U.S. House of Representatives


Jerrold Nadler, Chair

Jim Jordan, Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. House of Representatives


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