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Wednesday
May012013

Mark Zuckerberg's Political Status: It's Complicated

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Less than three weeks after Mark Zuckerberg officially launched his pro-immigration reform group, the billionaire technology mogul seems to be experiencing the Facebook equivalent of a liberal de-friending.

Progressive activists have been voicing their disapproval after two Zuckerberg-backed groups unveiled television ads last week that praised lawmakers for opposing Obamacare and supporting an expansion of the Keystone oil pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The ads are meant to provide political cover for senators to cast politically risky votes in favor of immigration reform.

One of the ads, airing on behalf of Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate's bi-partisan "Gang of Eight," features clips of the South Carolina Republican repeatedly disparaging President Obama. Another ad touts Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich's work to open ANWR to drilling.

Those television commercials led the Sierra Club to post a message to the environmental group's Facebook page on Monday urging Zuckerberg to "rethink his priorities."

"Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is bankrolling political ads that push dangerous, dirty projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in America's pristine Arctic Refuge," says the message accompanying a thumbs-down graphic dripping with oil.

"Just last week, the Sierra Club announced our support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants -- so we know how important immigration reform is to the future of our country," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement to ABC News. "The way to achieve reform, however, isn't by pushing dirty fuel schemes that threaten our future and our families. Mark Zuckerberg has made comments in the past recognizing that we need to pursue a clean energy future, and there is no reason he needs to trade those principles for a few political points."

In addition to Graham and Begich, an off-shoot of Zuckerberg's group, FWD.us, is financing a television commercial supporting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio -- the only one of the three ads that specifically mentions immigration reform.

FWD.us is funding two subsidiaries that are running the ads -- the Republican-leaning Americans for a Conservative Direction and the Democratic-minded Council for American Job Growth.

Each group has a board of directors separate from FWD.us, which last week added the backing of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and its CEO Steve Ballmer as well as technology entrepreneur Sean Parker to an already impressive list of Silicon Valley leaders who have signed on as supporters.

Former New York Congressman Scott Murphy, former Clinton administration White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, and former Obama campaign official Alida Garcia are listed as board members for the Council for American Job Growth.

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former George W. Bush administration official and Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan campaign adviser Dan Senor, and former National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Rob Jesmer sit on the Americans for a Conservative Direction board.

"Maintaining two separate entities, Americans for a Conservative Direction and the Council for American Job Growth, to support elected officials across the political spectrum -- separately -- means that we can more effectively communicate with targeted audiences of their constituents," FWD.us spokeswoman Kate Hansen said in a statement.

Although none of the ads imply that either Zuckeberg or FWD.us support policies like expanded oil drilling, detractors see little distinction between the group and its subsidiaries or between the group and Zuckerberg.

Their view that the ends (in this case, comprehensive immigration reform) do not justify the means (controversial political ads), has led at least two other groups -- CREDO Action, the liberal arm of CREDO Mobile, a cellular phone company, and the "climate safety" organization, 350.org -- to publicly lash out at Zuckerberg. A CREDO spokeswoman said 18,5000 people signed on an online petition condemning the ads and, along with 350.org, they are planning a protest outside Facebook headquarters in California on Wednesday.

Although FWD.us supporters include John Doerr, a prominent Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist; Reid Hoffman, executive chairman of LinkedIn; Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google; Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix; and Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer of Yahoo!, so far the progressive ire has been focused almost exclusively on Zuckerberg.

Complicating matters are the Facebook founder's somewhat mysterious political views. Zuckerberg and other technology leaders, for example, dined with President Obama in February 2011 and he hosted the president at a friendly town hall meeting two months later at Facebook's offices.

But he also threw a fundraiser earlier this year for Gov. Chris Christie, the New Jersey Republican and potential 2016 presidential contender. (At the time CREDO Action organized a protest outside of Zuckerberg's Palo Alto home.)

According to the Wall Street Journal, Zuckerberg is registered to vote in Santa Clara County but did not state a party preference. Campaign finance records show he donated a total of $10,000 in 2011 and 2012 to Facebook's political action committee.

In a Washington Post op-ed announcing his new advocacy group earlier this month, Zuckerberg expressed support for three major policy goals: "comprehensive immigration reform"; "higher standards and accountability in schools"; and "investment in breakthrough discoveries in scientific research."

"We will work with members of Congress from both parties, the administration and state and local officials," Zuckerberg wrote. "We will use online and offline advocacy tools to build support for policy changes, and we will strongly support those willing to take the tough stands necessary to promote these policies in Washington."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb252013

Lawmakers Tell Facebook’s Zuckerberg to Help Protect Sandy Hook Victims From Fraud

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A trio of lawmakers representing Newtown, Conn., where Sandy Hook Elementary School is located, wrote a letter to Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to complain on behalf of families and victims who say they may have been exploited for their loss by bad actors on the popular social media site.

Since the tragedy Dec. 14, Facebook users have created hundreds of unofficial tribute pages dedicated to the victims of Sandy Hook, including more than 100 tribute pages for first-grade teacher Victoria Soto, who is hailed as a hero for shielding her students as she was gunned down in the shooting in which Adam Lanza allegedly killed 26 students and teachers.

But not all of the people behind some of the tribute pages have good intentions.

The letter, which is signed by Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, asks Zuckerberg to remove Facebook pages cited in complaints submitted by Donna Soto, Victoria’s mother, and Kaitlin Roig, a Sandy Hook teacher who survived the shooting, “for violating the above terms of service.”

“Many give the appearance they were created by loved ones in the names of the victims. Unfortunately, many of these pages have become vehicles for harassment, intimidation and possibly financial fraud,” the trio wrote. “Pages providing platforms for people to violate the privacy of families as they grieve, or seek financial gain through soliciting donations under false pretenses, or generating Facebook ‘likes’ for marketing purposes, should not be given quarter in the Facebook community.”

The lawmakers note that shady tributes violate several of Facebook’s terms of service, such as providing false personal information on Facebook, creating an account for someone else without permission and bullying, intimidation and harassment.

“If you do not believe these pages violate your terms of service, please detail in a written response why,” the letter reads. “If Facebook is already looking into this matter, please detail what you have done thus far to address the take-down requests from Donna Soto and Kaitlin Roig.”

Esty’s office did not immediately provide a copy of the Soto/Roig take-down request, but the congressional offices pledged to work with Facebook to address their constituents’ grievances.

“We recognize that Facebook receives a large volume of reports and requests each day, but this issue deserves and needs priority enforcement of your own well-established policies,” the letter concludes. “We trust you will do the right thing.”

A Facebook spokesperson who asked not to be identified said the company “has been working closely” with families and a foundation representing Sandy Hook victims “to identify, review, and take action” on content posted to Facebook “in line with our terms.” The source said Facebook has also created a “dedicated staff” to address concerns related to the Sandy Hook shooting, and Facebook briefed Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen on its efforts.

“Hours after the tragedy, we reached out to law enforcement to provide assistance. We are continuing to work closely with the families and the foundation representing the victims of Sandy Hook to ensure that we respond as quickly as possible to concerns,” the Facebook spokesperson said. “For the past few months, our rapid response team has acted swiftly to remove inappropriate materials flagged by the foundation and the families. We will continue to be vigilant.”

The spokesperson did not comment directly on the Soto/Roig take-down request.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan272013

Facebook Co-Founder Scolds Chris Christie Over Gay Marriage Stance

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- How does Chris Hughes, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The New Republic and Facebook Co-founder, feel about Mark Zuckerberg hosting a fundraiser for Republican Governor Chris Christie?  Hughes joined ABC News in a web exclusive to discuss viewer questions from Facebook before the “This Week” roundtable on Sunday.

This week, Hughes launched a redesign of The New Republic, kicking off with a dynamic interview with President Obama.  Before ABC News’ Abby Phillip asked Hughes about the sit-down with Obama, she broached the topic of the Christie/ Zuckerberg alliance.

“I, for one, have a lot of questions about Chris Christie, particularly because less than a year ago he vetoed a marriage equality bill in the New Jersey state legislature,” Hughes said. “Which for me personally —  I got married to my husband last June —  was just really personally frustrating. I mean, there are tens of thousands of couples in New Jersey that can’t share their love and be recognized under the law because of that decision. I’m not a single issue voter, and I think most people aren’t either, but for me personally, it would raise serious concerns about supporting someone like him.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct172012

Internet Takes Off with Mitt Romney’s ‘Binders Full of Women’

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Despite all the fireworks over taxes, oil and Libya, the most buzzworthy social media moment of Tuesday night’s presidential debate was Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s comment about “binders full of women.”

The inadvertently funny comment came in response to a question about pay equity for women from a member of the audience of the debate between Romney and President Obama at Hofstra University.

Romney was explaining that as the governor of Massachusetts searching for qualified women to fill cabinet posts, women’s groups brought him “binders full of women” who were good candidates.

“And I said, ‘Well, gosh, can’t we -- can’t we find some -- some women that are also qualified?” Romney said. “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”

The response was swift.

“‘They brought me whole binders full of women’ Did I just hear that? #debate,” tweeted @MichaelAusiello.

“‘They brought us binders full of women,’ doesn’t sound good in any setting,” added the New York Times’ Nick Bilton.

It wasn’t long before the Internet took the comment and ran with it.

A new Tumblr account popped up with images inspired by the comment, including one from the now-famous “Texts from Hillary” meme.

“Romney still uses binders? LOL,” read the caption attached to a photo of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

A freshly minted Twitter account “@RomneysBinder” tweeted out: “Boy, I’m full of women! #debates” and by the end of the debate had more than 30,000 followers. A second @Romneys_Binder handle netted more than 12,000 followers by the end of the debate.

A fake “Binders Full of Women” Facebook account launched shortly after, along with several others. And the BindersFullofWomen.com domain name was purchased just minutes after the comments came from Romney’s mouth.

Though it didn’t top the 10 million tweets that watchers put out during the first presidential debate, more than 7.2 million tweets poured out from watchers of this second town hall-style event.

A few other moments of this more lively debate caused a stir.

When Romney repeated questioner Lorraine Osorio’s name several times before getting it right, more than 109,000 tweets per minute commented on the moment.

When the candidates first argued directly with each other on Obama’s policy on oil drilling, Twitter comments peaked at 97,000 tweets per minute.

And more than 98,000 comments were tweeted out when Obama jabbed Romney on the size of his pensions.

“I don’t look at my pension, its not as big as yours,” Obama said.

And the same number of tweets -- 98,000 -- came in response to Obama’s answer to a question about how his administration responded to the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May172012

Senators to Unveil ‘Ex-Patriot Act’ in Response to Tax ‘Scheme’

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has a status update for Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin: Stop attempting to dodge your taxes by renouncing your U.S. citizenship or never come to back to the U.S. again.

In September 2011, Saverin relinquished his U.S. citizenship before the company announced its planned initial public offering of stock, which will debut on Friday.  The move was likely a financial one, as he owns an estimated 4 percent of Facebook and stands to make $4 billion when the company goes public.  Saverin would reap the benefit of tax savings by becoming a permanent resident of Singapore, which levies no capital gains taxes.

At a news conference Thursday morning, Sens. Schumer and Bob Casey, D-Pa., will unveil the “Ex-PATRIOT” (“Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy”) Act to respond directly to Saverin’s move, which they dub a “scheme” that would “help him duck up to $67 million in taxes.”

The senators will call Saverin’s move an “outrage” and will outline their plan to re-impose taxes on expatriates like Saverin even after they flee the United States and take up residence in a foreign country.  Their proposal would also impose a mandatory 30 percent tax on the capital gains of anybody who renounces their U.S. citizenship.

The plan would bar individuals like Saverin from ever reentering the United States again.

“Eduardo recently found it more practical to become a resident of Singapore since he plans to live there for an indefinite period of time,” Tom Goodman, Saverin’s spokesman, told Bloomberg News in an email.

Last year 1,700 people renounced their U.S. citizenship.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr052012

Facebook Privacy: Dems Wield Employer Restrictions Against GOP

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona is campaigning to stop bosses from being able to demand their employees’ Facebook passwords, a week after House Democrats included a privacy provision in a procedural vote.

Facebook passwords have become a hot-button issue after a string of news reports about bosses demanding access to the Facebook accounts of prospective employees.

Dr. Richard Carmona, the former U.S. surgeon general under president George W. Bush who is running for Senate as a Democrat in Arizona, wants to make a campaign issue out of social-networking privacy.

Carmona has attacked his likely general-election opponent, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), for a procedural vote on employer-related Facebook privacy.  A new website, created and paid for by Carmona’s campaign, demands that Flake disclose his Facebook password and allows users to “dislike” Flake with a thumbs-down button (a feature that doesn’t exist on the real Facebook).

But Flake didn’t actually vote for employers’ right to demand Facebook passwords, as the website seems to insinuate.  As always with procedural votes in Congress, it’s complicated.

As Republicans pressed their Federal Communications Commission reform bill through the House last week over Democratic opposition, Democrats used their last procedural recourse to force a vote on employee Facebook privacy.

Democrats proposed returning the bill to committee with nonbinding instructions to add an amendment that would clarify the FCC’s authority to rule against employers being able to demand social-networking passwords.  Such procedural moves, known as “motions to recommit,” are the minority party’s last chance to stop a majority-backed bill; they typically fail.

Flake voted against the measure, along with all but one Republican.  The GOP-backed FCC bill passed last Tuesday on a largely partisan vote.  Neither Flake’s campaign nor his congressional office responded to requests for comment about the congressman’s views on employers and Facebook privacy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar222012

New Facebook App Lets Voters ‘Cosponsor’ Bills in Congress

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has launched a new app on Facebook called Citizen CoSponsor, designed to connect voters with bills making their way through Capitol Hill.

The new platform allows users to “cosponsor” a bill -- essentially the equivalent of “liking” in Facebook lingo -- and receive updates on its status throughout the legislative process, from committee hearings to votes. There is also a “keep me informed” option, which allows citizens to follow the bill rather than support it.

“We are dedicated to modernizing the way Congress connects with the American people,” Cantor said in a statement. “With the simple click of a button, Citizen CoSponsors will become a part of the deliberative process, using the same social networks they already rely on in their everyday lives.”

Citizen CoSponsor is built on Facebook’s Open Graph, which allows third-party developers to create apps that “deeply integrate into the core Facebook experience.”

Matt Lira, director of digital media for Rep. Cantor, says the genesis of the idea came as a challenge to re-think the way Congress can better communicate with the public in this social media-driven age.

“We’re still in beta,” Lira said. “This hasn’t been done inside of government or Congress [yet], and we envision in the future providing opportunities for more user engagement.”

Lira also cited Rep. Darrell Issa’s, R-Calif., Project Madison, an interactive blogging platform that allows citizens to comment on individual passages of legislation, as an example of the inspiration behind Citizien CoSponsor.

Cantor’s office hopes that the platform will encourage more engagement between American voters and Congress, as well as create a transparent and open legislative process.

At launch, the platform has six bills and only one of those is sponsored by a Democrat, sparking critics to charge that the app is partisan. Shortly after Rep. Cantor’s office tweeted about the app’s unveiling on Tuesday, the press office of House Minority Whip Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., tweeted back: “We like the idea of Citizen CoSponsor, but why did you re-write the bill titles and descriptions in an entirely partisan way?”

But Lira said he “would dispute that characterization.” He added that Cantor’s office is “looking for ways to involve all people in the program,” which means Democrats, Republicans and independent voters alike.

As of March 22, the bill with the most Facebook sponsorships is the Republicans’ 20-percent tax cut proposal for businesses with fewer than 500 employees. The bill is sponsored by Cantor and currently has 935 sponsors.

Other bills included on the platform are the DATA (Digital Accounting and Transparency) Act, the Permanent Hyde Rule (no taxpayer funding for abortion) and Repeal IPAB (the health law’s Independent Payment Advisory Board). The one Democrat-sponsored bill is Rep. Al Green’s, D-Texas, Homes for Heroes Act, which has 269 Facebook sponsors, the lowest number of all the bills.

“On the scale of partisanship, I don’t know if this comes on the heavy end,” Lira said, adding that the app includes Democratic and bipartisan legislation. “But that’s the typical back and forth of Hill politics. One side does something, the other side throws up a volley, but I’m hopeful we’ll overcome it and succeed.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep272011

Facebook to Fund Candidates, Establishes PAC

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Facebook doesn’t just want more friends. It wants more friends in high places.

The social networking firm filed paperwork Monday to establish a political action committee (PAC) that would direct funds to candidates running in the 2012 presidential election.

Facebook follows another Silicon Valley giant, Google, in establishing a PAC and comes on the heels of several social media companies becoming more involved in this election cycle, holding online town halls and sponsoring debates.

Corporations cannot legally contribute directly to a candidate. They instead create PACs that collect employee contributions voluntarily. Those contributions are then donated to candidates with positions usually favorable to the company.

“FB PAC will give our employees a way to make their voice heard in the political process by supporting candidates who share our goals of promoting the value of innovation to our economy while giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in an email.

Tech companies are increasingly looking for new footholds inside Washington’s halls of power and new ways their offerings can influence the political conversation. Google co-sponsored the GOP debate in Florida last week, Facebook held a digital town hall Monday with Republican members of Congress, and LinkedIn, the jobs networking site, held a similar event with President Obama.

Facebook, which opened a corporate office in Washington, D.C., in 2007, has increasingly lobbied Congress on a wide range of legal and regulatory issues. Facebook has spent $500,000 on lobbying so far this fiscal year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Facebook has yet to indicate which candidates the PAC will support.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep262011

GOP’s ‘Young Guns’ Hold Facebook Town Hall

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Three of the House of Representatives' top-ranked Republicans, known collectively as the “Young Guns,” appeared at a town hall event streamed live online by Facebook, rallying around their shared convictions to cut regulations and taxes while enacting tax and entitlement reform in order to put the country back on a fiscally sustainable path.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, known as the leader of the GOP’s conservative rise, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, credited as the strategist of the House Republican Conference, and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, considered the thinker of the trio, each appeared on stage casually dressed without coats or ties and chatted about the latest trends in social media and how that plays into the GOP’s playbook to reach more voters and engage their constituents.

All three collaborated to write a paperback book, Young Guns, last year.

Cantor, reacting to a showdown over a spending bill to keep the government operating, said he was “positive” the divided Congress would be able to reach an agreement to avert a government shutdown.

“There’s a lot of hyperbole in the press, but I’m positive that we will get this thing done,” Cantor, R-Va., promised. “Hopefully begin to look at a future that really holds a space for a lot more Facebooks, and holds the future for the kinds of limitless opportunity and unlimited inclusion that Facebook stands for.”

McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed that in order to spur job creation, “Congress should look at what creates jobs” and remove barriers that stand in the way of companies emerging in the private sector.

“Congress should step back and see, How did Facebook start? It started in a dorm. How did Apple start? In a garage. How did Google start? In a garage,” McCarthy said. “I’d focus on what’s made America great: entrepreneurship, innovation.”

Ryan, R-Wis., once again downplayed his expectations for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, and said a genuine solution to the debt crisis will require a solution from every member of Congress.

The Facebook live town hall, which was moderated by Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, was the same format that President Obama recently used. After the event, the trio was slated to meet privately with Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, just as the president had weeks ago.

Ryan also discussed fundamentally reforming both entitlements and taxes in order to get businesses hiring again.

“Let’s clear out all the clunk. Let’s get all the junk -- all the loopholes out so we can lower everybody’s tax rates,” Ryan said. “Stop picking winners and losers in Washington and get us to a more globally-competitive system....We think that fundamental tax reform -- fair, simple, internationally competitive -- is a key secret to economic growth.”

Pressed whether that included cutting loopholes for Big Oil, Ryan was unequivocal.

“Yeah, we should get rid of all that stuff so we can lower everybody’s rates,” Ryan said. “All of it.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug242011

Obama Campaign Seeks Social Media Staffers

Dimitri Vervitsiotis / Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- If you’re an unemployed Democrat with a knack for Facebook and Twitter, President Obama’s reelection campaign may have a job for you.

The Chicago-based team of Obama strategists and organizers wants to beef up its social media presence with multiple new hires, from digital media experts to lower-level staffers, according to a job listing posted Tuesday on the electronic Democratic job bank “Jobs That Are Left.”  The announcement was first spotted by the New York Observer.

“We’re looking for writers who can tell stories in 140 characters or less, put complex policy into Facebook-friendly terms, and help plan and create original content that people will be compelled to share with their friends,” the post reads. “You should have a head for politics, a sense of humor, and buckets of common sense.”

While the total number of pending new hires may be unclear, the objective is not: to flood the online networks with savvy, articulate defenders of Obama’s record at a time when his poll numbers are tanking, and reenergize millions in an audience that was critical to Obama’s victory in 2008 that may have seen their lofty dreams of Hope and Change tempered by the realities of a stagnant economy and Washington political maneuvering.  

Obama campaign aides have said they plan aggressive, “unprecedented” outreach to voters through social media, and are designing “innovative” ways to do that.  The White House recently held the first ever presidential Twitter town hall, and Obama has utilized new interactive video teleconferencing technology to brief volunteers.

Jonathan Askin, who was a member of Obama’s technology task force in 2008, said the 2012 campaign will be defined by “mobile social, hyper-local, grassroots community organizing” that harnesses tools like Four Square and Places giving supporters real-time access to campaign activities.

As Obama’s army of 2012 social media operatives kick their plans into gear, they will have a sizeable audience listening --  much larger than any of Obama’s prospective GOP challengers.  The president has 9.8 million followers on Twitter and 22.6 million fans on Facebook.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio