A coalition of progressive and environmental groups announced Tuesday that they were pulling their paid advertisements from Facebook in protest of political ads from FWD.us, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's new nonprofit.
Zuckerberg's alleged crime? Supporting conservative policies.
Nine major liberal organizations — including MoveOn.org, the League of Conservation Voters, and Progressives United — said they had jointly decided to suspend their paid ads for at least two weeks, and to cancel future ad buys.
Zuckerberg and several other prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneurs founded FWD.us in April to advance federal policies dear to the tech community. Chief among those priorities is immigration reform, specifically an expansion of a skilled worker visa program, which led the group to roll out ads promoting the bipartisan immigration deal crafted by the Senate's so-called Gang of Eight.
Yet those ads did not all focus on immigration. Rather, they touted the conservative credentials of vulnerable lawmakers who, given enough political cover, could be instrumental in pushing through legislation that provides a path to citizenship to 11 million undocumented workers — a long-held goal of liberals.
One ad praises Sen. Mark Begich's (D-Alaska) support for expanded domestic oil drilling. Another showcases Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) bashing President Obama's health care law and his handling of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The counterintuitive messaging has rubbed the boycotting groups the wrong way, even though they support FWD.us' ultimate goal.
"Leaders in the technology community have every right to talk about how immigration reform will benefit their businesses," said Progressives United founder Russ Feingold, a liberal stalwart who is also the former senator from Wisconsin. "But instead, FWD.us has chosen a strategy that's condescending to voters and counterproductive to the cause of reform."
A MoveOn spokesman reiterated that point to Mother Jones, calling the ads "deeply disturbing," and saying, "Unlike FWD.us, we don't support throwing other important issues like access to health care and action to combat climate change under the bus to" pass immigration reform.
The ads, part of a seven-figure buy, ran on television for only one week, according to FWD.us. In hopes of generating more bipartisan support, those ads were funded by two FWD.us subsidiaries — one liberal, one conservative.
"Fwd.us is committed to showing support for elected officials who promote the policy changes needed to build the knowledge economy," a FWD.us spokeswoman, Kate Hansen, said in a statement last week. "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."
The boycott is the latest in an ongoing campaign progressive groups have waged against Facebook's approach to the immigration debate.
Last week, dozens of liberal demonstrators gathered outside Facebook's California headquarters to protest the ads, chanting, "Keystone, take a hike. Facebook dislike."
Also last week, Facebook rejected an ad sponsored by progressive phone company CREDO that opposed the Keystone Pipeline and criticized FWD.us' ads. Facebook reportedly nixed the ad because it included an image of Zuckerberg, a violation of the site's policies.