Freedom House Asked to Decline Facebook Support for Net Freedom Index in Wake of Censorship Flap

NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm sent this letter today to Freedom House President Mark Lagon:

I am sure that you are familiar with the furor over the alleged censorship of conservative stories by Facebook in its “trending" news section. As you know, Facebook is a funder of your annual Net Freedom Index.

On November 19, 2015, I wrote you regarding the appearance that the Net Freedom Index reflected the lobbying priorities of large Silicon Valley firms, rather than serving as an objective index of freedom on the Internet.

Although our concerns focused primarily on Google, viewpoint discrimination is a serious across-the-board problem in the United States.  See for example, our website posting yesterday by Dr. Carl Horowitz of our staff titled, “Social Media CEOs Embrace Black Lives Matter; Censor Critics.”

For years, conservative and libertarian Internet users have complained that Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter suppress and/or discriminate against conservative and libertarian information and thought in a variety of ways. Yet, viewpoint discrimination has never been a criterion in the Internet Freedom Index, nor is this serious problem even acknowledged in your reports.

According to your website, “current funders” of the Index are Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the U.S. State Department Bureau of Human Rights and Labor. “Past Funders” are identified as the United Nations Democracy Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The funding of the Index by agencies of the United States government is an additional concern in light of recent reports about the “revolving door” between the Obama administration and Google. Nearly 250 individuals have been employed by both. Washington’s “revolving door” is nothing new, but the level of Google’s involvement with this administration is unprecedented, a fact carefully documented by the Campaign for Accountability, a liberal watchdog group.

We ask the following:

1) Give us the courtesy of a reply to our November 19, 2015 letter, which you have ignored. We did quite a lot of research that revealed that much of the Index was compiled by individuals who have financial ties to Google in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ukraine, South Africa and Nigeria. It is time for you to address this issue.

2) Make viewpoint discrimination a criterion in the Index. We are happy to refer you to individuals who have been the victims of this phenomenon, and who can provide a great deal of specific and credible information.

3) For 2016, fully disclose the specific amounts of financial and in-kind support that Freedom House and any person who works on the Index receive from Google, Facebook, Yahoo and/or Twitter.

4) In future years, compile the Index without the financial support of Google, Facebook, Yahoo and/or Twitter. Ultimately, this is the only way the Index can be credible.

I look forward to your reply. END LETTER


Freedom House Challenged On Net Freedom Index; Google Influence Permeates Project