January 2023

Big Tech Rewarded Big Lie Advocates Big Time

Accountable.US is spotlighting bad actors that are helping to undermine our democracy amid a full-scale assault on our fundamental rights. This newsletter series is part of Accountable.US’ American Democracy Scorecard project that graded all Fortune 100 companies on their behavior involving critical democracy issues – and found two-thirds are failing to do their part.

In the lead up to the violent insurrection on January 6th, 2021, Big Tech played an indisputable role in amplifying the baseless election denialism better known as the “Big Lie.” From the Apple podcast app to Alphabet’s YouTube videos, the fringe theories that attempted to topple our democracy gained an audience on their platforms.

When the dust settled from January 6th, 2021, Big Tech scrambled to assure their customers and shareholders of their commitment to protecting voting rights and our shared democratic ideals. Yet, as Accountable.US’ American Democracy Scorecard revealed, the industry’s political spending quickly showed they weren’t serious.

Big Tech ranked among the worst offenders when it comes to boosting the voices and campaign war chests of anti-democracy lawmakers just months after the failed coup attempt – earning them an average score of 69 out of 100. During the 2022 election cycle alone, Fortune 100 technology companies contributed over $1.2 million to members of Congress who opposed federal voting rights legislation and over $120,000 to members who refused to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Meanwhile, despite promoting “a series of election tools and strategies” to tackle an expected ”deluge of political misinformation” during the 2022 election, Big Tech continued to allow disinformation to run rampant on their platforms. According to Stanford’s Internet Observatory, the amount of content considered “election disinformation” grew on social media platforms after 2020.

Big Tech’s commitment to democracy shouldn’t be something they can switch on and off. Poll after poll has shown consumers overwhelmingly support companies that stand up for democracy – it’s time for companies like Alphabet and Apple to help pull the plug on election denialism and misinformation.

By The Numbers

During the 2022 election cycle, Fortune 100 technology companies have contributed:

  • $1.2 million to members of Congress who opposed federal voting rights legislation.

  • $120,000 to the members of Congress who objected to certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.

During the 2022 election cycle, key staff from Fortune 100 technology companies contributed over $439,000 to anti-democracy federal legislators.

On average, Fortune 100 Tech companies received a failing 69 out of 100 score on the American Democracy Scorecard:

CEO Spotlight: Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of Meta

Ahead of the 2020 election, Zuckerberg told Congress that Facebook “removes 94 percent of the hate speech it finds before a human reports it.” Yet, Facebook’s own researchers found “the company was removing less than 5 percent of hate speech on Facebook.” Notably, the Trump campaign’s nearly $20 million worth of Facebook ads included campaigns featuring “xenophobic, fear-mongering, vitriolic and outright false rhetoric.”

Meanwhile, as the platform let hate speech go unchecked on their user’s feeds, Meta objected to extending factual voting information to Spanish speakers because “it was not ‘politically neutral,’ or could make the company appear partisan.”

Meta and Zuckerburg have since downplayed their role in the January 6th attack and have resisted calls from the platform’s own oversight board for a comprehensive internal investigation. Yet, as a ProPublica analysis of millions of posts revealed, “Facebook played a critical role in the spread of false narratives that fomented the violence of Jan. 6.”

Now, as Trump rebuilds his digital disinformation efforts in support of his 2024 presidential run, the campaign is putting pressure on Meta to reinstate him after his suspension in 2021. Will Zuckerberg bow to the pressure of political influence, or will he stand for the civil and balanced discourse he claims to believe in?

In The News

Bloomberg | Tech and Telecom Firms Have Resumed Giving to Election-Denying Republicans

Politico | Corporations gave $10M to election objectors after pledging to cut them off

TruthOut | Companies That Pledged to Stop Giving to Election Objectors Have Given Them $10M

MarketWatch | ​​Facebook, Google, Amazon and more marked Black History Month with fanfare — after donating to lawmakers who blocked voting rights bills

Take Action

The American Democracy Scorecard website provides a wealth of information about what America’s companies are doing to uphold or undermine democracy, as well as tools for sharing this information and making your voice heard.

Tell Meta Platforms CEO, Mark Zuckerburg, and other corporate leaders what you think about their commitment to democracy.


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