Frances Haugen's Fight Has a Billionaire Backer

EBay founder Pierre Omidyar's organizations are giving financial support to Facebook whistleblower
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2021 6:37 AM CDT
Frances Haugen's Fight Has a Billionaire Backer
Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaks during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, on Capitol Hill on Oct. 5, 2021.   (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

(Newser) – Frances Haugen's fight against Facebook is receiving funding from a billionaire: tech critic and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Omidyar's global philanthropic organization Luminate gave $150,000 last year to nonprofit Whistleblower Aid, which is handling Haugen's legal representation, Politico reports. However, Whistleblower Aid is also seeking donations as part of a GoFundMe campaign, which has raised more than $57,000 of a $100,000 goal. "We need your support to make sure she's got the backup she needs as she stands up to speak the truth," the page reads. In a video from Whistleblower Aid, Haugen notes Facebook "has the resources and potentially the motivation to ruin my life."

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But Haugen has "an edge that many corporate whistleblowers lack," per Politico, which reports Luminate is handling her press and government relations in Europe. In the US, Haugen's top PR representative is Bill Burton, who served as deputy White House press secretary under President Obama and now handles public affairs for the nonprofit Center for Humane Technology, which also receives funding from Omidyar. A source tells Politico that the billionaire and his organizations, which have for years backed efforts to limit the power of big tech companies, offered Haugen "financial investments … on a forward-going basis" after the whistleblower went public earlier this month.

In a Wednesday blog post, Omidyar's advocacy and investment group Omidyar Network claims "a handful of tech giants wield tremendous, unchecked power," per the Hill. "We have had a nagging feeling that the harms they cause are known to them—and are far worse than the public could imagine. That has been validated as truth by a series of courageous whistleblowers" and "because of them, policymakers are taking notice and taking action." That group last year shared a policy paper laying out "a clear theory of how Facebook may have violated the antitrust laws in the US." (Omidyar's First Look Media previously backed Gawker's press freedom fight against Hulk Hogan.)

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