How Facebook profits from war in Ukraine
A big-tech/arms-maker alliance is exaggerating Russia and China's threats in order to avoid government oversight, among other things.
In 2020, Facebook founded American Edge, a political advocacy group that claims to be "a coalition dedicated to the proposition that American innovators are an essential part of the U.S' economic health, national security, and individual freedoms." To terrify Americans about China and Russia, the firm has now teamed with the arms industry.
A Youtube ad of American Edge states that "with direct financial ties to the Chinese Communist Party, many Chinese companies present threats to America’s national security but some Washington politicians are pushing for new laws that will empower Alibaba, Tik Tok, and other Chinese companies at the expense of America’s tech innovators."
The ad was run between 100,000 to a million times in the DC area, and Edge spent more than $1.4 million to run the ad along with similar ones on Facebook.
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After Russia announced the military operation in Ukraine, Edge used the war to justify its anti-regulatory agenda.
In a statement on March 30, it said that given the situation in Ukraine, "the stakes cannot be understated, nor can the need for U.S. lawmakers to get it right be more urgent," adding that “Efforts to push anti-innovation legislation that is rushed and short-sighted could undo America’s global competitive edge in technology, endanger our national security, and hand China and other authoritarian regimes a permanent geopolitical advantage – to the detriment of the United States, democracy, and the entire free world."
Edge is a collaboration of pro-market, anti-regulation, and pro-technology organizations. The organization's "critical, primary driver" has been identified as Facebook. The organization has spent roughly $1.5 million on Facebook, Instagram, Google, and YouTube advertisements. It warns of China's danger to the US and blames anti-trust legislation for eroding American security.
Sarah Miller, executive director and founder of the American Economic Liberties Project, a group promoting the anti-monopoly movement and strengthening anti-trust regulation stated, “On its face, big tech firms are trying to leverage fear and the authority national security arguments tend to have in the national discourse to violate antitrust law and engage in a host of irresponsible and dangerous behavior."
The Edge alliance has a practically unseen partner with considerably more stigma: the weapons industry.
Lockheed Martin, funded at least two of the coalition's members: Lexington institute and Women Impacting Public Policy.
Edge Energy's claim that China represents a threat to US national security is remarkably identical to that of Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet, whose company's proposed merger with Aerojet Rocketdyne has been blocked by antitrust regulators. Edge CEO Doug Kelly used similar words in February, blasting authorities for blocking the transaction.
The "National Security Advisory Board" of the Facebook-led organization includes Frances Townsend, who also serves on the board of Leonardo DRS, a weapons company that builds military aircraft, heavy equipment carriers, and drones.
She is joined on the Lockheed board by retired general Joseph F. Dunford and former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, who is an advisor to Beacon Global Strategies, a business created in 2013 to provide advisory services to defense companies.
As none of the board members divulge their professional ties to the arms industry, Miller says, "It does show who [big tech companies] are willing to partner with to meet their objectives and that doesn’t seem to be a very savory partnership,” adding that “It doesn’t surprise me at all that Lockheed and Facebook would be joining forces to forestall or smear antitrust efforts across the board.”
Facebook and its Edge partners in the weapons business are keen to stir the flames of great power rivalry with Russia and China and to transform the war in Ukraine, with its attendant humanitarian and economic consequences, into regulatory action against giant tech and arms corporations. As a result, some of the top technology and defense corporations in the United States may see increased earnings.