New Open-Source Research Tool The Facebook Receipts Launches, Reveals Staggering Breadth of Meta’s Influence on the 118th Congress
27 April 2023 — With donations spread across 334 members of Congress from 49 different states, Meta has lavished millions on elected officials from both parties — from Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Senator Mark Lee to Rep. Bennie Thompson and Rep. Patrick McHenry. Backed up by an army of 76 lobbyists with direct […]
27 April 2023 — With donations spread across 334 members of Congress from 49 different states, Meta has lavished millions on elected officials from both parties — from Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Senator Mark Lee to Rep. Bennie Thompson and Rep. Patrick McHenry. Backed up by an army of 76 lobbyists with direct Senate and Congressional experience, Meta’s influence effort has helped to stave off regulation despite appearances in 68 different hearings worldwide, and challenges in dozens of court cases.
How do we know?
The Facebook Receipts, a new project launched today by the Real Facebook Oversight Board to expose Facebook’s activity in Washington D.C. and around the globe as it attempts to influence legislation and regulation. The Facebook Receipts is the first publicly available, open-source research tool that tracks Facebook court hearings, harms, money, and FOIA filings. From the lobbying dollars in congressional halls to the political donations on parliamentary floors, our database is the only comprehensive collection of original data and visualizations that pull back the curtain of Facebook’s influence operations worldwide.
“Just four months into the 118th Congress, Meta’s lobbying muscles have already sprung in to kill significant antitrust, privacy, and kids safety legislation,” said Zamaan Qureshi, Policy Director for RFOB and creator of The Facebook Receipts. “We’re shining a light on the darkest corners of Meta’s activities in DC and worldwide, as a way to keep urgently needed reform for the tech space on track and free from Meta’s influence.”
Already this year, Meta lobbyists have helped kill urgently needed antitrust regulation, and have muddled the effort to protect children’s safety online. Congress has largely ceded leadership to states and the courts on critical issues like Section 230. The Facebook Receipts show the massive reach of Meta in Washington D.C. –
$7,877,698 in campaign contributions in 2020; $2,115,634 in 2022 so far, with 2022 donations going to 334 members of Congress in 49 states. The effort was truly bipartisan: 224 Democrats took money from Meta.
Leading recipients of Meta’s corporate donations and donations from employees: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer ($10k); Senator Steve Daines ($7900), Senator Mike Lee ($7500), Senator Cortez-Masto ($7500), Rep Bennie Thompson ($7500) and Rep. Patrick McHenry ($4500).
Over 75 lobbyists worked the halls of Congress for Meta in 2022–66 of them are direct through the revolving door, with working experience in the House or Senate. Top lobbyists include John Branscome, head of Meta Public Policy, who came to Meta after serving as Chief Counsel for the Committee overseeing Meta, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
“We wanted to create a usable tool for journalists, Hill staff, advocates, and citizen activists so they could easily research and understand the reach of Facebook,” said Qureshi. “The Facebook Receipts is an open source tool that can turn tech advocacy into impact.”
The Facebook Receipts, which will be regularly updated, include data that track Meta’s –
Harms — Where Facebook’s fingerprints can be traced around the world.
Dollars — How many members of Congress are on Facebook’s payroll?
Hearings — Instances in which Facebook has misled or downright lied to government officials.
Donations — Dollars Facebook spent in the 2020 and 2022 elections on political candidates.
As wide as Meta’s reach may be, the Facebook Receipts also reveal a company on the ropes. The Facebook Receipts is one of the first tools to track hearings, testimony, and legal proceedings against Meta; with dozens of legally mandated hearings and testimony under oath, Meta is currently the subject of a major FOIA challenge by the Real Facebook Oversight Board with the SEC and Meta is currently engaged in 5 major lawsuits.
“Data is power, “ Qureshi said. “This data shows how Meta is using their influence — and where they might be one FOIA or ruling away from real accountability.”