July 13, 2020

David N. Cicilline, Chair

F. James Sensenbrenner, Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law

Jerrold Nadler, Chair

Jim Jordan, Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515


Chairman Cicilline, Ranking Member Sensenbrenner, Chairman Nadler and Ranking Member Jordan:


The committee recently made known that Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Sundar Pichai of Google will testify later this month, but said that additional details of the format will be forthcoming. We write to urge you to ensure that the world’s most powerful tech CEOs testify in separate, individualized sessions before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law later this month in furtherance of its historic investigation into digital markets.


Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google derive power from their enormity and complexity, which strike at the heart of this investigation. Reporting suggests that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who among the four CEOs is the only who has never provided Congressional testimony, is focused on securing a format that could shield him from answering the Subcommittee's questions. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai have all previously testified individually and voluntarily in accordance with Congress' requests.


As four of the six most valuable companies in the world, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have broad and complicated corporate structures and business strategies. The difficulty of analyzing their businesses virtually and in a single day will be compounded by the likelihood that the CEOs, whose businesses are, of course, distinct, will work together, if allowed to testify side by side, to evade and deflect questions while obscuring critical answers the Subcommittee seeks.


No CEO should have the ability to artificially limit the Subcommittee’s investigation through tactics like this, but we must anticipate that these CEOs will tacitly cooperate to exploit any such openings during the hearing. Should the corporations refuse to come before Congress virtually and individually, we support immediately compelling their testimony through subpoena, along with any other information the Subcommittee deems relevant to its investigations that the corporations fail to voluntarily produce.


Sincerely,


Accountable Tech

Alliance to Counter Crime Online

American Economic Liberties Project

Athena

Backbone Campaign

Color of Change

Demand Progress Education Fund

Freedom From Facebook & Google

ILSR

Jobs with Justice

Make the Road New York

Media Justice

Open Markets Institute

Threshold



cc:

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker

Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader

U.S. House of Representatives



  • Freedom From Facebook & Google

To: Edelman Public Affairs & Global Strategy Group

From: Freedom From Facebook & Google

Cc: CNN

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.


Sincerely,

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.

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