Facebook reportedly sponsored a countrywide “grassroots” campaign to defeat anti-Big Tech antitrust legislation that is gathering traction in Congress, including undercover operations to attempt to persuade the public to oppose proposals that could harm the platform. According to the Washington Examiner, Facebook established American Edge, a political advocacy group, with a single $4 million donation in late 2019 to try to “kill bipartisan antitrust legislation in Washington through op-eds in local papers, critical advertisements, and collaborations with conservative think tanks, business associations, and former national security officials.”
The organization spent over $2 million on Facebook advertisements and over $70,000 on Google ads, as well as writing many strategic op-eds criticizing the antitrust measures for harming the tech sector and allowing China and Russia to dominate U.S. tech innovation. An anonymous source familiar with the operation said, “Facebook can’t be the messenger. If we are out there saying it, people won’t believe it as much, so the conversation is how can you set up a proxy.”
Some of the pro-tech ads referenced American Edge’s funding, but none indicated the company’s ties to Facebook. Ads and op-eds by the organization slammed government officials and politicians who are seeking to rein in Big Tech corporations like Facebook and Google as having a “misguided agenda” or adopting actions that would “take away the technology we use every day.”
The bipartisan antitrust legislation, which cleared the House Judiciary Committee in June, contains six broad antitrust bills targeted at limiting the power of big corporations like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Three of the bipartisan House proposals also have Senate counterparts that have also advanced out of committee. The legislation is Washington’s most serious attempt to alter the tech industry to date.