The Heritage Foundation rejected significant cash donations from giants Google and Facebook, arguing that the tech companies censor people and groups with conservative views. The foundation, therefore, could not accept money while maintaining a “good conscience,” stated its president Kay C. James.
As recently reported by Axios, James sent letters to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai explaining that the Heritage Foundation cannot 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. The cordial rejection was via a letter written in late October but only now revealed.
James noted that part of Congress and important sectors of civil society are lobbying to implement antitrust actions against Big Tech and amend the liability protection enjoyed by some tech companies such as Google and Facebook.
“Heritage is in the midst of reviewing these proposals, and the last thing we need is for anyone to think that our conclusions have been influenced in any way by a relatively small donation from your company,” James wrote in the letter, purporting to dodge any conflict of interest on the part of the association.
In his letter to Facebook, James mentioned, by way of example, Facebook’s decision to reduce traffic to a 2020 New York Post story. The alleging that then-Vice President Joe Biden reportedly met with an executive of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma where his son Hunter worked in 2015.
Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was on the controversial firm’s board at the time. A Facebook spokesperson said the company was concerned that the article was “disinformation,” although it did not provide any evidence to justify censorship.
Tech companies have also targeted the Heritage Foundation-affiliated news site, the Daily Signal, James wrote. Facebook significantly reduced references to the Daily Signal portal.
YouTube also removed videos posted by the news site that criticized medical practices of prescribing hormones and performing surgeries on people suffering from gender dysphoria, James recalled in the letter.
Google-owned YouTube also added a “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,” James said.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a multi-state lawsuit against Google, alleging antitrust violations and deceptive acts by the tech giant. Five additional states and territories recently joined his state’s effort: Alaska, Florida, Montana, Nevada, and Puerto Rico. States already named in the lawsuit include Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah.
Similarly, Florida also proposed measures to penalize social networking companies if candidates are censored during an election. The legislation would fine companies $100,000 per day until the candidate’s access to the platform is restored.
While Congress and the judiciary debate antitrust rules and the handling of information by large digital firms, the Heritage Foundation, in keeping with its ethical values, wisely decided not to get involved in issues that could generate future doubts about its relationship with large tech companies.