Facebook is set to become the latest tech company to end its support for a controversial rightwing lobby group that works against climate change legislation.
The social media company has been a funder of American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which shapes legislation at state level across the US. But late on Tuesday the company confirmed to the Guardian it was quitting, following Google, which cut ties this week, and Microsoft, which left in August.
Yelp!, the consumer review website, also said that quit Alec.
News of Facebook’s decision was first reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Facebook said: “We reevaluate our memberships on an annual basis, and are in that process now. While we have tried to work within ALEC to bring that organization closer to our view on some key issues, it seems unlikely that we will make sufficient progress so we are not likely to renew our membership in 2015.”
Luther Lowe, public policy director of Yelp, said that its membership of Alec had expired and had not been renewed. “Yelp is not a member of Alec,” he said.
Alec has attracted global criticism for its opposition to legislation that would curb carbon emissions, anti-union policies and championing of extreme rightwing policies at the state level.
Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt said this week the company could no longer be aligned with people who deny climate change.
“The people who oppose it are really hurting our children and grandchildren and making the world a much worse place,” Schmidt said on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show. “We should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying.”
In August Microsoft severed its ties, saying Alec’s stance on climate change and several other issues “conflicted directly with Microsoft’s values”.
Climate activists have been lobbying tech companies and other corporations for years to cut ties with Alec, which counts Exxon, Koch Industries and other big fossil fuel companies among its members.
Other Alec supporters including eBay and Yahoo will now come under intense pressure to join the exodus.
“At Yahoo, we engage in the political process in a variety of ways to promote and to protect the long-term interests of our users and our company,” a spokeswoman said. “One of the ways we do so is is through memberships in organizations that help advance our business objectives. We may not agree with all the positions of an organization, its leaders or its supporters. At this time, we are members of Alec and limit our engagement to their Communications and Technology Task Force.”
Michael Terrell, Google’s senior policy counsel for energy and sustainability, spoke recently at an Alec meeting in Dallas.
Terrell, representing Yahoo, Facebook and eBay as well as Google, told delegates they should be pushing for “more robust” policies encouraging renewable energy, a position opposed by Alec members.
Chris Taylor, a Democratic representative in the Wisconsin state assembly, who was at the meeting, said Terrell argued that the tech firms’ data centres required huge amounts of energy and that renewable energy was cost-effective. Terrell urged ALEC to work with the internet companies, recognising that their interests had not always been aligned.
There was little support for his views.
Facebook and other tech firms have used Alec supporters to push for tax cuts, immigration reform and other issues. But support in the tech industry is waning following the exit of several high-profile sponsors.
Nick Surgey, director of research at the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy, said: “Alec’s position on climate change is really indefensible outside of a room full of coal and oil lobbyists. There is now an enormous amount of pressure on public-facing companies like eBay and Yahoo to join Google and Facebook in leaving Alec. Anything less is going to end up hurting their brands.”
Last year the Guardian disclosed that Alec was trying to woo back lapsed corporate members including Amazon, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Kraft, McDonald’s and Walmart, all of which cut ties with the group following the furore over the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in February 2012.
Alec had supported Florida’s “stand your ground” legislation and worked with the National Rifle Association to lobby for similar legislation in other states.
George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer who shot and killed 17-year-old Martin, was initially not charged, with law officials citing the stand your ground legislation.
*Also see http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/23/google-to-cut-ties-with-rightwing-lobby-group-over-climate-change-lies
Learn more here http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Facebook-to-cut-ties-with-conservative-policy-5776055.php