George Soros Appears to Be Behind Effort to Break Up Facebook's Monopoly
Some conservatives may finally find a reason to like left-wing billionaire George Soros, as it appears he is behind an effort to protest and ultimately break up Facebook and other social media monopolies. Back in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Soros denounced "IT monopolies" like Google and Facebook, calling them "obstacles to innovation" that “exploit the social environment.”
"Something very harmful and maybe irreversible is happening to human attention in our digital age," Soros said at Davos.
Not just distraction or addiction; social media companies are inducing people to give up their autonomy. The power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies. It takes a real effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called “the freedom of mind.” There is a possibility that once lost, people who grow up in the digital age will have difficulty in regaining it. This may have far-reaching political consequences. People without the freedom of mind can be easily manipulated. This danger does not loom only in the future; it already played an important role in the 2016 US presidential elections.
An official from Soros' Open Society Foundations told Axios in February that the philanthropy was "examining new ways" to go after the tech giants.
The organization didn’t provide details of their current conversations. A spokesman said that it provided a $180,000 two-year grant to the Open Markets Institute last fall for work around web platforms.
- The organization's interest in platforms has been building for some time. It gave the group Data & Society $250,000 in 2016 for "reimagining pathways for algorithmic accountability of platforms and organizations that produce and distribute content, such as search and recommendation engines and social media."
Enter "Freedom from Facebook," a new coalition of progressive groups targeting the social media giant. The coalition includes MoveOn.Org, the Open Markets Institute, Citizens Against Monopoly, SumOfUs, and Public Citizen -- all funded at least in part, by Soros' Open Society Foundations.
Freedom from Facebook launched a petition in May calling on the FTC to "spin off Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger into competing networks."
The group also handed out flyers outside of a Facebook event on Tuesday and posted pictures on Twitter.