Facebook made a $10,000 donation to the reelection campaign of a U.S. politician who fought strongly against the legalisation of same-sex marriage, it has emerged.
The donation, to Republican Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, was the candidate’s second largest during the campaign. It is listed in a filing for Reyes’s 2014 primary campaign on the State of Utah Financial Disclosures website and was first reported by local LGBT magazine QSaltLake.
In an email to the Huffington Post, a Facebook spokesperson defended the donation and attempted to disassociate the social network from Reyes’s policy:
“Facebook has a strong record on LGBT issues and that will not change, but we make decisions about which candidates to support based on the entire portfolio of issues important to our business, not just one. A contribution to a candidate does not mean that we agree with every policy or position that candidate takes. We made this donation for the same reason we’ve donated to Attorneys General on the opposite side of this issue - because they are committed to fostering innovation and an open internet.”
In response to Facebook’s donation, QSaltLake assistant editor Bob Henline has launched a Change.org petition, asking the social network to make “an equal or greater contribution” to the campaign of Reyes’s opponant, Charles Stormont, who openly supports LGBT equality.
Mr Henline said: “I’m an activist within the community, and Sean Reyes has drawn my distaste for his comments about the LGBT community. So I wanted to see who was funding his campaign, and when I looked through the disclosures, I discovered that Facebook was his second-largest contributor. Being a Facebook user, I have always assumed that it was pro-equality and pro-diversity, so it shocked me.”
This isn’t the only case of Facebook supporting controversial candidates. Facebook created its own PAC in 2011. According to NorthStar Asset Management, 41% of contributions from the PAC went to politicians who voted against LGBT rights.
In April, Facebook shareholders raised concerns about the social network backing politicians whose policies did not align with Facebook’s image. As recently as last year, Facebook contributed money to the campaigns of three politicians who supported the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act - policies that some say pose a threat to free speech online. It was also revealed that contributions went to candidates pushing the deregulation of greenhouse gas emissions.
LGBT groups reacted negatively to the revelation. A spokesperson for Stonewall, a UK charity that campaigns for LGBT rights said: “Millions of gay people dream about changing their Facebook status to ‘married’. Facebook has been vocal in its support for marriage equality in the past and we hope it continues to use its powerful voice to campaign for change. We hope they also recognize that a fundamental part of securing that change will be having elected officials who support equality for gay people.”
Facebook told Newsweek that they do not make donations to any political parties in Europe.
One comment on the Huffington Post by Frank Barton said: “ZUCKERBERG is a complete AWHOLE. EFF HIM”. The comment, hosted by Facebook, had attracted 37 likes at the time of writing.