• Freedom From Facebook & Google

To: Edelman Public Affairs & Global Strategy Group

From: Freedom From Facebook & Google


Re: Your Work for Facebook as Zuckerberg Enables Trump’s Hate & Lies

Date: June 12, 2020


Your websites read “Time for Brands to Stand Up” & “In Solidarity With the Black Community,” as protestors marching against racism and hate have been tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, and arrested.

Simultaneously, Mark Zuckerberg defended his decision to let Trump spread hate on Facebook, including his racist historical reference to looting and shooting.

The episode revealed what many of us have long warned about: Facebook coming into tacit alignment with Donald Trump ahead of the 2020 elections, while dismissing, yet again, the role it plays in spreading dangerous, violent content. But Facebook’s disregard for democracy and socially destructive business model are widely known facts of which you’re surely aware.

In the face of growing pressure from advocates, including our coalition, and scrutiny from lawmakers, Facebook recently formed a new front group, American Edge. Both of your firms - through Joe Lockhart and Jim Papa - have been named and quoted in press articles as working for American Edge.

We believe that your stated support for progressive values and the fight for racial justice is irreconcilable with your public relations work for Facebook, given its role in spreading hate, fostering social discord, and undermining democracy.

As even Facebook employees resign in protest, your firms must put values ahead of profits and cease any work on behalf of American Edge or Facebook.

As engineer Timothy Aveni explained in his resignation, this is a much bigger issue than deciding whether a single Trump post encouraging violence should be removed. Facebook has built a toxic business model that depends on amplifying hateful and divisive content to increase user engagement and keep the ad revenue coming.

Mark Zuckerberg does not care about protecting free speech. He cares about protecting his power. And he’s willing to sacrifice our democracy to do so. Your firms should not be an accomplice.

We look forward to your response, and hope that your firms will be willing to demonstrate that the words on your home pages were not, in fact, co-opting the language of racial justice for corporate branding purposes.


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

P.S. We are also copying CNN, as we believe it would be appropriate for Joe Lockhart’s work for American Edge or Facebook to be disclosed when he is on the air or writing op-eds that discuss the protests and/or Trump, until that work ceases.

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.


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

Washington, DC -- Mere days after announcing their new “Supreme Court,” Facebook has been busted for trying to evade scrutiny and antitrust laws yet again. Turns out all of their happy talk about reforming and fighting COVID misinformation was P.R. cover while the tech giant has been quietly working to stand up a political advocacy group called American Edge, designed to “combat U.S. lawmakers and regulators trying to rein in the tech industry.”

Yep, that’s right - in the middle of “uncontrollable” spread of coronavirus misinformation, while profiting from ads boasting fake cures and harmful information, allowing ad targeting to “pseudoscience” audiences and anti-stay-at-home protests to organize on the platform, and on the heels of launching a COVID “Data for Good” endeavor to harvest even more of our personal information, Facebook has created a lobbying group with the aim of convincing lawmakers to give it more power.

And while the new kids on the block just wanted to fly under the radar, we’re pulling up the welcome wagon, anyway. Leading the group is Susana Martinez, former Governor of New Mexico, who was the subject of multiple lawsuits filed by her own police force, and whose fundraising was the subject of an FBI investigation. She’s joined by Josh Ashbrook, former aide to Mitch McConnell and founder of Cavalry, a right-wing political firm, Bradley Smith, former Republican commissioner on FEC, turned law professor in Ohio, Chris Carney, former Congressman from Pennsylvania, Jim Papa, Partner at Global Strategy Group, and Danny Diaz, Founding & Managing Partner at FP1 Strategies.

To the newbies in the group, allow us to introduce ourselves, we’re the gadfly Facebook just can’t squash.

Facebook has their own laws of physics - for every “good” thing Facebook does, there is a massively unequal and opposite shady agenda they’re trying to push under the cover of positive PR. If it wasn’t already clear, Facebook’s Supreme Court is a farce meant to distract; the company is really focused on assembling a goon squad to target those sounding the alarms. Though designed to do the opposite, Facebook’s creation of a lobbying group is by far and away the clearest evidence for why Congress needs to regulate and break up this power-hungry monopoly.