Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation has declined donations from Google and Facebook because of the companies’ censoring of persons and groups with conservative points of view.
Outgoing foundation president Kay C. James sent letters to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai explaining that the Heritage Foundation could “not in good conscience accept money” from companies that suppress conservative speech and content.
Heritage turned down a $225,000 donation from Google and returned a $150,000 donation from Facebook in October 2020.
James made it clear to the Big Tech companies that her organization is assisting Congress to revise antitrust laws, which currently protects the companies from liability for content published on their platforms.
“Heritage is in the midst of reviewing these proposals, and the last thing we need is for anyone to think that our conclusions have in any way been influenced by a relatively small donation from your company,” she wrote.
The letters to Zuckerberg and Pichai came a day before the CEOs of Big Tech gave testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.
While the federal government has a handful of antitrust laws they have introduced, state-level officials have also begun holding the Big Tech companies to account, with many governors and attorney generals filing lawsuits and changing policies to rein in the companies and require more transparency in their user policies.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a multistate lawsuit against Google, alleging antitrust violations and deceptive acts by the tech giant, with five additional states and territories recently joining his state’s effort: Alaska, Florida, Montana, Nevada, and Puerto Rico. States already named on the lawsuit include Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah.
Similarly, Florida has also proposed measures that could penalize social media companies if they de-platform candidates during an election. The legislation would fine companies $100,000 a day until the candidate’s access to the platform is restored.
Meanwhile, in her letter to Zuckerberg, James cited some recent incidents of censorship bias suffered by conservatives.
“The Heritage Foundation has all too often fallen victim to Facebook’s double standard. Referrals to our Daily Signal news site, for example, have plunged from 600,000 sessions in July to a mere 105,000 so far in Oct.,” she wrote, requesting that the CEO explain the decrease in their traffic.
James did not spare Google’s CEO either. She told Pichai that his company has twice censored The Heritage Foundation’s videos.
“Most recently, you added a prominent label to our election integrity video that was clearly meant to cast doubt on the credibility of our well-sourced claims about the risks of voting by mail,” she wrote.
“You’ve in effect handed discriminatory authority to a group that is biased against our view on election fraud. Our detailed complaint to Susan Wojcicki was met with a shrug,” she added. Wojcicki is the CEO of YouTube.
Axios reported that in the past, Google had donated $1.55 million to The Heritage Foundation while Facebook gave $275,000.
Janita Kan contributed to this report.