Joe Biden is declining to say whether he will return thousands in donations from top Facebook executives as he ramps up his public feud with the social-networking website over fact-checking of political advertisements.
The Biden campaign has spent the last week assailing Facebook for refusing to screen the content of political speech from Donald Trump’s campaign, calling on its supporters to sign Biden's open letter against the company and warning that the network is becoming "a tool of misinformation that corrodes our democracy."
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Despite the harsh rhetoric, Biden has shown a reluctance to cut ties with the social media website. He has received thousands of dollars in donations from the company’s top executives, and his campaign spent millions on Facebook ads in June.
The Biden campaign has received contributions from at least four senior Facebook executives, according to Federal Election Commission records. This includes $2,800 from Facebook’s chief financial officer David Wehner, $4,050 from Chief Revenue Officer David Fischer, $2,800 from Chief Privacy Officer of Policy Erin Egan, and $550 from Chief Privacy Officer of Product Michel Protti.
Asked whether he planned to return the donations, which hit the campaign's coffers before Biden began waging war on the company, a spokesman for the Biden campaign declined to comment. Wehner and Egan did not respond to requests for comment. Fischer and Protti could not be reached.
Last week, the Biden campaign spent $4.7 million on Facebook ads, more than it spent in the entirety of 2019. In early June, Biden spent a record-breaking $1.6 million in a single day, according to the New York Times.
Andy Stone, a spokesman for Facebook, directed the Washington Free Beacon to a press release from the company last week. In that statement, Facebook rebuffed the Biden pressure campaign, declaring that it would not take additional steps to restrict political speech on its website. "There is an election coming in November and we will protect political speech, even when we strongly disagree with it," said the statement.
That statement prompted additional criticism from the Biden campaign, which claimed the social media company "sided with Trump."
"Facebook's statement is ‘we sided with Trump’ dressed up in a bargain basement ‘we didn't pick a side’ costume," said Biden’s digital director Rob Flaherty on Twitter last week.
"I have low expectations from Facebook at all times but resorting to ‘lol nothing matters’ as their response here even surprised me," he added.
The Biden campaign has privately lobbied Facebook for months to place restrictions on political "misinformation" on its platform, according to the New York Times. But their proposals were reportedly met with opposition from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, prompting the campaign to take the feud public.