Heritage Foundation Pledges to Refuse Big Tech Donations Over Censorship Concerns

The Heritage Foundation on Tuesday pledged to refuse funds from Big Tech companies “as long as they continue to suppress conservative viewpoints.”

The announcement comes weeks after the conservative think tank declined donations from Google and Facebook because of the companies’ censoring of persons and groups with conservative points of view.

Heritage, a public policy research institute, turned down a $225,000 donation from Google and returned a $150,000 donation from Facebook in October 2020.

“The Heritage Foundation will not in good conscience accept money from companies that repeatedly and blatantly attempt to silence conservative speech they don’t agree with,” outgoing foundation president Kay C. James said in a statement Tuesday.

“Every time a new case of censorship comes to light, these companies trot out excuses and promises to do better. Enough is enough,” she added. “I stand united with other conservative leaders against Big Tech’s censorship of conservative voices.”

In rejecting the donations from Facebook and Google in October, James sent letters to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pdf) and Google CEO Sundar Pichai (pdf), citing the ongoing tech policy debate.

“As you know, there is a growing momentum in Washington to rein in Google and other technology companies, either through antitrust action or changes in liability protections you enjoy,” James wrote at the time. “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 cited some recent incidents of censorship bias suffered by conservatives in her letter to Zuckerberg.

“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.

Axios reported that in the past, Google had donated $1.55 million to The Heritage Foundation while Facebook gave $275,000.

Big Tech companies have drawn intense scrutiny for perceived political bias and alleged unbalanced moderation of users’ content. Critics say much of the companies’ moderation in the past year has unfairly targeted conservative speech and speech from individuals deemed to be supporters of former President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, groups on the other side of the aisle have been taking issue with how social media companies are operating, claiming that the Silicon Valley companies have failed to adequately address misinformation that is being proliferated online.

Masooma Haq and Janita Kan contributed to this report.

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