Facebook using leverage to get advance notice about public info requests: report

Facebook using leverage to get advance notice about public info requests: report
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Facebook is negotiating contracts where it requires local governments it reaches tax subsidy deals with to give the technology firm advance notice before responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

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In states where Facebook reaches deals with the government to establish data centers, the company often reaches deals where it receives tax breaks in exchange for the new center. On more than one occasion, Facebook has arranged clauses which require governments in those regions to give the company several days notice before officials respond to FOIA requests, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.

Bloomberg News reported that a past agreement of that type applied only to requests made to the county government, not to the entire state's public information requests.

The tax breaks that governments agree to with Facebook can also be controversial.

In one example, New Albany, Ohio, agreed to bring in a Facebook data center which provided only 50 new jobs to one of the state's wealthiest suburbs in exchange for as much as billions in tax breaks.

Experts believe that in doing this, Facebook is attempting to control media around its data centers and stymy criticism of its deals.

“It’s a game of muscle,” John Cary Sims told the Columbia Journalism Review. “It’s very valuable to know at the earliest time what information someone has. It may also be about tracking what stories a journalist might be doing. It’s an ingenious way to try to get to the high ground, where they can assess the risk and apply pressure in a timely way so it comes out the way they want it to come out. It gives them leverage, and it may delay release for months.”

Amazon engages in similar practices, according to the outlet, requiring as much as a five day heads up before government officials respond to a FOIA request.