The Heritage Foundation, one of the oldest and most respected conservative think tanks in Washington, D.C., rejected six-figure donations from Big Tech companies Google and Facebook, taking a principled stand against Big Tech censorship of conservatives.
In letters written by outgoing Heritage President Kay Cole James addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the conservative nonprofit turned turned down more than $350,000 in contributions, according to a report from Axios, which obtained copies of the letters.
“We cannot in good conscience take money from a company that repeatedly, and blatantly, suppresses conservative speech on your platforms,” James wrote to Pichai.
Axios reported that Heritage formally rejected a $225,000 donation from Google and announced it would return a $150,000 contribution from Facebook.
Heritage reportedly accused Facebook of blocking referral traffic to its news and opinion website and accused Google of censoring some of its YouTube videos. James referenced an instance where YouTube added a disclaimer to one of Heritage’s videos she says “meant to cast doubt on the credibility of our well-sourced claims about the risks of voting by mail.”
The letter to Mark Zuckerberg called out Facebook for suppressing users’ ability to share the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story in the weeks leading up to the election.
In previous years, the Heritage Foundation has accepted generous donations from Big Tech companies. A spokesperson told Axios that Google has donated a total of $1.55 million to the think tank. Facebook has given $275,000.
Axios noted that the timing of Heritage’s release of the letters to Facebook and Google comes just ahead of a major House hearing on Section 230 protections for social media platforms.
Zuckerberg, Pichai, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will testify to the House Energy and Commerce Committee at noon Thursday, answering questions from lawmakers on if and how Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should be reformed to regulate Big Tech.
While Republicans and Democrats may share a desire to revisit Section 230, they wish to change the law in fundamentally different ways. Republicans accuse tech companies of having an anti-conservative bias, pointing to examples of Big Tech content moderation removing or adding warning labels to conservative content.
Democrats, on the other hand, believe social media platforms are not doing enough to censor what they say is misinformation or disinformation on their platforms. They accuse platforms like Facebook of aiding and abetting the violence that occurred during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by permitting “Stop the Steal” campaigns to spread on their websites. They say suggestions that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate are “misinformation” and want people to be prohibited from sharing those ideas on social media.