Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has gotten flak from progressive and environmental groups this week over controversial stances taken by his new advocacy group, FWD.us. Launched in April, FWD.us largely represents the interests of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs in advocating desired reforms in immigration, education and high-tech investments. The dispute began last month after FWD.us produced and aired television ads in Alaska and South Carolina in support of U.S. Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The Alaska ad praised Sen. Begich for his efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, while the South Carolina ad featured Sen. Graham making comments critical of Obama's Affordable Care Act and the president's handling of the Keystone pipeline. In response, a coalition of liberal organizations, spearheaded by Sen. Russ Feingold’s Progressive United, announced Tuesday that they would be both retracting existing ads and refraining from purchasing new ones from Facebook for a period of at least two weeks. Progressives United is joined by MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, CREDO, Daily Kos, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, 350.org and Presente.org. One of the allied groups, CREDO, claims that Facebook rejected its ad criticizing FWD.us on the grounds that it used Zuckerberg's face. “Facebook took the extraordinary step of rejecting our ad featuring Mark Zuckerberg's photo along with a headline asking him to stop pushing pro-Keystone XL propaganda," CREDO political director Becky Bond said in a statement. “But the ads that truly need to be pulled are the cynical and ineffective anti-environmental political commercials that Zuckerberg and FWD.us are airing in South Carolina and Alaska.” Both the League of Conservation Voters and MoveOn.org have started online petitions urging Zuckerberg to remove the ads from FWD.us's website. Collectively, the two petitions have thus far received more than 80,000 signatures.
Anthony Mangini is an editorial intern at In These Times. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree from New York University. He currently resides in Chicago.