Accountable Tech Launches FOIA Investigation into Facebook’s Coordination with Trump Administration
Launched six months after the Capitol insurrection, campaign will probe undisclosed Facebook communications with Trump officials surrounding the attack, as well as COVID-19, racial justice protests, and more.
Today, Accountable Tech launched an investigation into Facebook’s coordination with the Trump Administration by filing a series of FOIA requests with agencies across the federal government. The filings are the first in a wide-ranging campaign to uncover communications between Facebook executives and Trump officials regarding major incidents during Trump’s presidency, including the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Administration’s response to COVID-19, and the nationwide racial justice protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd.
The campaign comes on the six-month anniversary of the Trump-incited insurrection and on the heels of recent revelations that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg regularly sought to engage former President Trump, often asking for invitations to the Oval Office and calling Trump to discuss his company’s content moderation decisions. It also comes after Facebook’s refusal to permanently ban Trump from the platform despite his repeated violations of Facebook’s community standards.
“It is no secret that President Trump used social media to spread COVID-19 disinformation, spew election lies, and encourage racial violence,” said Jesse Lehrich, co-founder of Accountable Tech. “But while Trump’s online behavior strained his relationships with most social media platforms, Facebook cozied up to him and his team until after the insurrection. The public deserves to know what was happening behind the scenes.”
Starting as early as 2015, Facebook changed its policies to create exemptions for Trump, allowing him to avoid fact checks and skirt hate speech violations. Meanwhile, members of Facebook’s executive team were considered for top cabinet positions, advisors to key Facebook investors were appointed to lead White House agencies, and undisclosed phone calls and White House dinners were hosted between Mark Zuckerberg and President Trump.
To uncover the extent to which Facebook coordinated and communicated with the Trump Administration, Accountable Tech is seeking records on a range of topics, including:
Facebook communications with Trump officials regarding the company’s refusal to moderate election misinformation leading up to the January 6th insurrection, including mentions of “Stop the Steal,” “Occupy Congress,” “QAnon,” and Facebook executives like Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and Joel Kaplan.
Facebook’s involvement in the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 response, including communications regarding content moderation decisions related to health conspiracies, vaccine hesitancy, and the rise of anti-Asian hate.
Facebook’s coordination with the Trump Administration’s response to racial justice protests across the country after the murder of George Floyd, including Facebook’s decision to keep President Trump’s violent posts published on Facebook, the use of user-data to identify protestors, and Facebook’s algorithmic Group recommendations to foment racist and hateful content.
The Trump Administration’s use of Facebook data to carry out its immigration priorities, including the role the platform played in coordinating sting operations, raids, and family separations during the Trump Administration.
Undisclosed dinners and phone calls with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook investor Peter Thiel, and President Trump, including any coordination with Michael Kratsios, former Chief Technology Officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Peter Thiel’s former Chief of Staff.
The FOIA requests — which seek emails, calendar invitations, and text messages — were submitted to the U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, State, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. If the agencies fail to turn over documents in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, Accountable Tech will consider legal action to compel disclosure.