Multiple leftist foundations have come together to criticize social media giant Facebook for its recent banning of the accounts of New York University researchers investigating advertising and disinformation on the platform.
ZDNet reports that the NetGain partnership, which is a coalition including the Mozilla Foundation, Ford Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Omidyar Network and more, recently published an open letter condemning Facebook for its recent suspension of accounts linked to New York University researchers investigating disinformation on Facebook’s platform.
Breitbart News recently reported that Facebook banned the personal accounts of several researchers from the NYU Ad Observatory. They were investigating the spread of misinformation and ad transparency on the platform. Facebook claims that the academics violated the site’s terms of service by scraping user data without permission; the academics allege that Facebook is simply silencing them for exposing issues with Facebook’s platform.
In May, the researchers published a blog post explaining the aim of their studies — to uncover exactly who is funding political ads and how they are being targeted towards people online. As Facebook does not fact-check political ads, this research could have a significant effect on the platform. Given that a considerable amount of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising, this could cause major issues for the company.
Previously, the FTC’s acting director for the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Samuel Levine, said that Facebook should not “use privacy” as “a pretext to advance other aims.”
The recent open letter from the NetGain partnership, primarily made up of leftist groups, criticizes Facebook for the move, stating:
This action by Facebook also cut off access to more than two dozen other researchers and journalists, who relied on Ad Observer data for their research and reporting, including timely work on COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation.
This is only the latest example of Facebook’s attempts to curtail journalism and independent, academic research into their business and advertising practices. In the absence of more fulsome disclosure and transparency from the social media industry, independent research efforts have been essential to understanding how disinformation spreads on digital platforms. This research also uncovered how advertisers exploit the industry’s ability to micro-target advertisements, the extent to which bad actors use these platforms to exacerbate societal rifts and inequities, and the costs to civil society.
The partnership demanded that Facebook reinstate the accounts linked to the NYU project and alter its Terms of Service within the next three months to allow for research that is “ethical, protects privacy and is in the public interest.”
Breitbart News has previously reported on both the MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. In 2016, Breitbart News noted that a report from the Capital Research Center outlined the goals of the MacArthur Foundation, writing:
The free speech-averse John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation aspires to leverage social media and educational testing in order to strengthen elite control of all aspects of society and culture. The philanthropy promotes politically correct censorship on popular websites like Twitter and Facebook, but for more insight into the organization, focus on the left-wing MacArthur board chairman who has long been a heavy-hitter in textbook publishing.
John MacArthur died in 1978, and by 1981, the leftists had taken power at his foundation and ousted the conservatives. With just under $6.5 billion in assets at the end of 2014, it is now the seventeenth-largest private foundation in the country and the largest in Illinois, according to FoundationSearch. The philanthropy has been a major force on the American media landscape for years, with total annual spending of approximately $225 million. In 2013, the foundation spent $79.1 million on U.S. grants, with the lion’s share going to “digital media and learning.”
While its oft-mentioned donations in support of liberal media outlets like NPR and PBS have made the MacArthur brand familiar to many, few Americans know of its larger designs: a stealth campaign to help the Left control the U.S. educational system via digital media assessments and efforts by the foundation’s chairman to foster censorship on social media. The unifying theme of many MacArthur projects is manipulation of America’s “Overton windows” (a term describing the range of acceptable political discourse on a particular topic), either through increasingly antiquated communication channels like radio and television, or through forward-looking technology and education grants.
MacArthur has been interested in global online censorship since 2007, when it teamed up with Harvard’s Berkman Center to track governmental Internet censorship worldwide. Ironically, MacArthur now advocates for censorship of anti-feminist views and other opinions it automatically deems “hate speech.”
The Ford Foundation (not linked to the Ford Motor Co.) has also been linked to a number of anti-conservative groups. In 2017, Breitbart News reported that the Ford Foundation made a donation of $2,350,000 to the Center for Community Change Action, which was a group funding direct attacks on the Trump administration.
In April, Breitbart News reported that the Ford Foundation had funded an “anti-racist” movement amongst the Girls Scouts of the USA. Breitbart News reported:
Girls Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) are jumping into the “anti-racist” movement with a $500,000 programming effort.
The funding comes from the left-wing Ford Foundation, which touts on its website its history of fighting for social justice and that the organization is led by a “diverse” board of directors.
Read more about the NetGain partnership’s opposition to Facebook’s latest suspensions at ZDNet here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address firstname.lastname@example.org