eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar is backing the Facebook whistleblower

By Richard Lawler

Facebook Whistle Blower Frances Haugen Testifies To Senate Committee Photo by Jabin Botsford-Pool/Getty Images

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified in front of Congress two weeks ago about the ways the company’s products can bring harm to users after leaking documents supporting her claims to The Wall Street Journal and the SEC. Now Politico reports that the campaign to support Haugen’s advocacy has been aided by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar, as she takes on the place where she previously worked as a product manager assigned to the Civic Integrity group.

Omidyar is no stranger to the media, providing financial backing to The Intercept, for example, and the open internet advocacy group Public Knowledge. According to Politico, when asked to comment, his advocacy group Omidyar Network pointed to an unbylined blog post that went up today titled “In Support of Tech Whistleblowers Who are Holding Tech to Account.”

If you’re looking for a “why” behind the impactful rollout of Haugen’s testimony and the Facebook Files reported by the WSJ, the blog post lays out clear intentions for the machine behind everything.

“With little competition, regulation, or other countervailing checks and balances, Big Tech has too much influence. Until recently, these platforms largely avoided meaningful public oversight, which has allowed them to do as they wish, often at the expense of consumers, start-ups, and their employees.”

“Even as Big Tech’s reach has extended further and faster, it has remained largely opaque. 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 who have spoken out and delivered evidence of wrongdoing and misconduct.”

The level of polish and coordination accompanying the rollout of the files has been evident, inviting open speculation about who is making Facebook’s nightmare month possible. Omidyar’s participation isn’t exactly a surprise — the Network posted a 39-page PDF last year titled “Roadmap for an Antitrust Case Against Facebook.”

It’s unlikely that Omidyar and associated organizations are the only ones in play here either, as Politico notes that Haugen’s schedule puts her, and her files, in front of a UK Parliament committee next week. Appearances in France and Belgium will follow next month, while an appointment with Facebook’s Oversight Board doesn’t have a date yet.

That’s not even including an impending release of articles by multiple media outlets that Facebook communications VP John Pinette referred to as a “gotcha campaign” without describing what his company has been caught doing.

Haugen’s method — and her proposed solutions for the problems she identifies — can fall into more than one category. Still, a carefully executed media rollout has, so far, kept her claims from being ignored or forgotten. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) just sent out a request for Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook execs to testify in response to the information revealed in the files.