American Edge, a political advocacy group founded by Facebook, has launched a campaign attacking the Senate backed antitrust legislation aimed to expand competition in the tech industry. PICTURED: A January 2021 article sponsored by the group
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A lobbying group secretly funded by Facebook has been perpetrating the fake news narrative by planting stories in newspapers across the US and manipulating the media.

American Edge, a political advocacy group founded by the social media giant, has launched a campaign attacking the Senate-backed antitrust legislation aimed to expand competition in the tech industry.

The organization has commissioned studies, placed op-eds in local papers and collaborated with various partners – such as minority business associations, former national security officials and conservative groups – to slam the bill, The Washington Post revealed Tuesday.

In its sponsored ads and writings, American Edge plays on citizens’ fears of cybersecurity attacks from Russia and advanced technology in China, echoing key arguments of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The group has accused lawmakers on Capitol Hill of having a ‘misguided agenda’ and wanting to ‘take away the technology we use every day,’ while also alleging the antitrust bill poses a danger to small and minority-owned businesses.

However, as the group distributes its political propaganda, Facebook’s name remains absent from the conversation, a move a source familiar with American Edge’s inner workings says is to increase trust amongst consumers.

‘Facebook can’t be the messenger,’ the source, who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity, said. ‘If we are out there saying it, people won’t believe it as much, so the conversation is how can you set up a proxy.’ 

American Edge, a political advocacy group founded by Facebook, has launched a campaign attacking the Senate backed antitrust legislation aimed to expand competition in the tech industry. PICTURED: A January 2021 article sponsored by the group

American Edge, a political advocacy group founded by Facebook, has launched a campaign attacking the Senate backed antitrust legislation aimed to expand competition in the tech industry. PICTURED: A January 2021 article sponsored by the group

The organization has commissioned studies, placed op-eds in local papers and collaborating with various partners to slam the bill. PICTURED: A January 2022 Washington Times article that is linked to American Edge

The organization has commissioned studies, placed op-eds in local papers and collaborating with various partners to slam the bill. PICTURED: A January 2022 Washington Times article that is linked to American Edge

Just weeks after the Senate passed the American Innovation and Choice Online Act in January, American Edge launched a campaign bashing the legislation.

The group released an advertisement featuring Clayton Stanley, President and CEO of Mississippi-based economic development organization The Alliance, on February 28 accusing lawmakers in Washington D.C. of ‘weakening American technology, threatening jobs and making the U.S. economy more dependent on China.’

The ad touted the benefits of technology, alleging it was empowering the nation and helping businesses to ‘innovate and reach their customers through social media and online advertising.’

Another ad, which debuted in April, was fueled by the war in Ukraine and featured a warning from national security officials that both Russia and China may gain a ‘technological edge’ on the West as an ‘unintended consequence’ of antitrust regulation.

The group’s ads run in all 50 states and have even sparked fury amongst legislators sponsoring the American Innovation and Choice Online Act.

‘I see them on television, I see them online all the time,’ David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), who has led efforts to pass the legislation, said. ‘They’re making our point that these platforms have too much power. They have unlimited resources.’

American Edge has spent over $70,000 on Google ads and nearly $2 million in ads on Facebook. 

The group released an advertisement featuring Clayton Stanley, President and CEO of Mississippi-based economic development organization The Alliance, on February 28 accusing lawmakers in Washington D.C. of 'weakening American technology, threatening jobs and making the U.S. economy more dependent on China'

The group released an advertisement featuring Clayton Stanley, President and CEO of Mississippi-based economic development organization The Alliance, on February 28 accusing lawmakers in Washington D.C. of ‘weakening American technology, threatening jobs and making the U.S. economy more dependent on China’

Days later, Stanley penned an op-ed in the Mississippi Business Journal (pictured) alleging: 'Instead of attacking these digital platforms, we need to work with these companies toward innovation and access for our businesses to survive'

Days later, Stanley penned an op-ed in the Mississippi Business Journal (pictured) alleging: ‘Instead of attacking these digital platforms, we need to work with these companies toward innovation and access for our businesses to survive’

PICTURED: An October 2020 op-ed Stanley wrote for the Daily Corinthian

PICTURED: An October 2020 op-ed Stanley wrote for the Daily Corinthian

The group also published a series of op-eds, some penned by Stanley himself, in newspapers spanning from Orange County, California to Nashua, New Hampshire. 

In one piece, published in the Mississippi Business Journal, Stanley wrote: ‘Instead of attacking these digital platforms, we need to work with these companies toward innovation and access for our businesses to survive.’

The leader of the National Black U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which received a grant from American Edge in 2020 wrote an op-ed in the Las Vegas Sun in February 2021 – during Black History Month – arguing how tech companies are essential for the ‘nation to support black-owned businesses amid the pandemic.’

He advocated on behalf of tech companies, claiming their existence ‘allowed business owners to operate virtually and advertise their products.’ 

American Edge issued a grant to fund a Lexington Institute study titled Why U.S. National Security Requires A Robust, Innovative Technology Sector. 

However, the report’s author, Loren B. Thompson, claims the organization had ‘modest involvement’ in the project.

Thompson alleged American Edge decided the ‘general content of the study’ and ‘changed some phrasing’ before it was published. 

American Edge's ads run in all 50 states and have even sparked fury amongst legislators sponsoring the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. PICTURED: A March 2021 American Edge article criticizing antitrust laws

American Edge’s ads run in all 50 states and have even sparked fury amongst legislators sponsoring the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. PICTURED: A March 2021 American Edge article criticizing antitrust laws

American Edge has accused lawmakers on Capitol Hill of having a 'misguided agenda' and wanting to 'take away the technology we use every day,' while also alleging the antitrust bill poses a danger to small and minority-owned businesses. PICTURED: A letter to the editor penned by American Edge leader Frances Townsend in October 2021

American Edge has accused lawmakers on Capitol Hill of having a ‘misguided agenda’ and wanting to ‘take away the technology we use every day,’ while also alleging the antitrust bill poses a danger to small and minority-owned businesses. PICTURED: A letter to the editor penned by American Edge leader Frances Townsend in October 2021

In its sponsored ads and writings, American Edge plays on citizens' fears of cybersecurity attacks from Russia and advanced technology in China, echoing key arguments of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. PICTURED: A July 2021 Washington Times article slamming Beijing that has been linked to American Edge

In its sponsored ads and writings, American Edge plays on citizens’ fears of cybersecurity attacks from Russia and advanced technology in China, echoing key arguments of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. PICTURED: A July 2021 Washington Times article slamming Beijing that has been linked to American Edge

American Edge-commissioned content, which portrayed tech issues as being ‘vital to America’s heartland,’ popped up on local TV, in defense-focused trade publications, on social media and conservative websites, the Post reported. But none of the ads or writings mentioned Facebook or its parent company, Meta. 

Some of the campaigns disclose that they are backed by American Edge, but still do not address the group’s links to the social media giant.

Facebook, which has publicly criticized antitrust laws and said policymakers ‘should not punish successful American companies,’ currently faces an antitrust investigation from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

By keeping its distance from American Edge, the social media platform has allowed the political group to ‘build the appearance of widespread grass-roots opposition’ without being ‘tarnished’ by ‘scandals’ associated with Meta.

American Edge-commissioned content, which portrayed tech issues as being 'vital to America's heartland,' popped up on local TV, in defense-focused trade publications, on social media and conservative websites. PICTURED: An October 2020 Lexington Institute study funded by American Edge

American Edge-commissioned content, which portrayed tech issues as being ‘vital to America’s heartland,’ popped up on local TV, in defense-focused trade publications, on social media and conservative websites. PICTURED: An October 2020 Lexington Institute study funded by American Edge

PICTURED: An August 2021 article penned by Frances Townsend

PICTURED: An August 2021 article penned by Frances Townsend

PICTURED: A September 2021 article written by Clayton Stanley for the Mississippi Daily Journal

PICTURED: A September 2021 article written by Clayton Stanley for the Mississippi Daily Journal

American Edge CEO Doug Kelly, who declined the Post’s interview request, hit back at the accusations that the group purposefully hides its affiliations with Facebook.

‘The Washington Post may not display Amazon’s name on its front page, but the American Edge Project has displayed Facebook’s name prominently on ours since launch,’ Kelly wrote in a statement to the newspaper. 

He also claimed that although American Edge began with a ‘seed grant’ from Meta, the organization has since secured funding from other sources. Kelly expects the group to get more contributors as it continues to grow.

‘This growth is the result of a keen awareness that protecting America’s technological edge is a worthy and meaningful endeavor,’ he said. 

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone, addressing the allegations, argued the social media company has also been vocal about its support for the group.  

‘As The Washington Post previously reported, we’ve been clear about our support for the American Edge Project’s efforts to educate the public about the benefits of American technology,’ Stone told the newspaper. ‘But the proposed antitrust reforms would do nothing to address the areas of greatest concern to people and could weaken America’s competitiveness.’

American Edge was founded by a single donation from Facebook of $4 million between December 2019 and October 2020, tax records revealed

American Edge was founded by a single donation from Facebook of $4 million between December 2019 and October 2020, tax records revealed

American Edge was founded by a single donation from Facebook of $4 million between December 2019 and October 2020, tax records obtained by the news outlet revealed.

Insiders claim Facebook devised a plan for the advocacy group ahead of the 2020 presidential election, anticipating that Big Tech would be targeted on the campaign trail.

Facebook spent more than $20 million in lobbying efforts in 2021 in effort to influence tech regulations. 

Although tech companies are some of Capitol Hill’s largest lobbying spenders, the businesses are not required to disclose their investments in advocacy groups. 

Many companies fund outside political groups to push ‘industry-friendly messages,’ however the Post alleges Facebook’s reliance on proxies has grown due to its ‘unique reputational crisis,’ which began with the spread of Russian disinformation during the 2016 election.

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