Over the next few weeks, Progressive ads will be scarce on Facebook. Outraged Progressive coalitions have “unfriended” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg in protest to his recent support of the expansion of the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. On Tuesday, many Progressive groups announced that they would either retract existing paid Facebook ads or abstain from purchasing new ads for at least two weeks to express their disapproval of Zuckerburg’s new political Facebook group, named FWD.us.
Zuckerburg launched FWD.us, a political action committee (PAC), in March with the help of many leaders in the tech community. The group is designed to appeal to both Republicans and Democrats. Its mission is to keep the United States and its citizens competitive in a global economy, by predominantly supporting education and immigration reform, and also by supporting scientific research.
In an attempt to show support for the legislators who promote policy changes, FWD.us praised senators for supporting the oil industries. The group targets lawmakers that come from areas vulnerable to immigration reform, such as Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Mark Begich (D-AK).
While the primary focus of FWD.us appears to be immigration reform, the group has been heavily criticized for its seven-figure ad campaign that praises Senators for opposing the Affordable Care Act, and supporting of dirty energy projects, such as the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic.
The campaign, which has since been removed from the air, showed no support of immigration reform, but instead, focused only on the dirty politics of the Republican agenda.
The boycott against Facebook is being led by former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), with a large backing from progressive groups such as Progressives United, CREDO, Daily Kos, and Sierra Club. “Leaders in the technology community have every right to talk about how immigration reform will benefit their businesses,” said Feingold. “But instead, FWD.us has chosen a strategy that’s condescending to voters and counterproductive to the cause of reform.”
The retaliation has not ended with the Progressives’ boycott; many individual groups are voicing their outrage. The Sierra Club has launched a Facebook page against Zuckerburg and CREDO Action is hosting a petition that now reached 19,000 signatures.
Overall, Zuckerburg’s FWD.us has backfired as a whole. What could have been a forward, bipartisan movement on government legislation was ruined by a cynical strategy that supported counterproductive issues.
Sara Papantonio is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.