Ocasio-Cortez presses top tech firms over conference that included climate-change skeptics

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) are pressing Google, Facebook and Microsoft over their sponsorship of a conference that featured participation by climate change skeptics. 

Ocasio-Cortez and Pingree in a letter to the tech firms’ CEOs accused the giants of compromising their records on sustainability with their “implicit support” of the LibertyCon, a conference that took place earlier this month in Washington, D.C. 

{mosads}Mother Jones first reported that the libertarian event included a session titled “Let’s Talk About Not Talking: Should There Be ‘No Debate’ that Industrial Carbon Dioxide is Causing Climate Catastrophe?” The group behind the session, CO2 Coalition, opposes mandatory reductions in CO2 emissions. 

CO2 Coalition at the conference handed out informational pamphlets casting doubt on climate science, Mother Jones reported. It co-sponsored the event alongside Google, Facebook and Microsoft.  

“We are writing to you today in light of the important role that your companies play as we prepare to take comprehensive action on climate change,” Pingree and Ocasio-Cortez, who are championing the issue of climate change as a priority in the 116th Congress, wrote in the letter addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

Pingree and Ocasio-Cortez wrote they were “deeply disappointed” to see the companies were “high-level sponsors” of the conference. 

“The past commitments of your companies to address climate change have been well documented,” the progressive lawmakers wrote. “We are encouraged that each of you have pledged to reduce your carbon footprint and have committed other efforts like pursuing renewable energy.”

“Disappointingly, though, the example you have set promoting sustainability and evidence-based science is compromised by your implicit support of the session organized at LibertyCon,” they wrote.

A Facebook spokesman pointed The Hill toward its political engagement policy, which says, “Sometimes we support events that highlight Internet and social media issues.” Facebook has sponsored multiple events representing a breadth of political views, including a progressive conference and the Conservative Political Action Committee. 

The CO2 Coalition did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. 

The conference covered a range of topics and included sessions titled “Socialism is Evil,” “Fake News and What to do About It,” “Is the Internet Still a Free-Play Zone?,” “Are Carbon Taxes a Viable Solution for Climate Change?” and more. 

LibertyCon was also sponsored by The Heartland Institute, a group that often rejects climate science and pushes against regulation of carbon emissions, Mother Jones reported.

A Google spokesperson in a statement to The Hill reiterated its statement to Mother Jones last week, which said the company sponsors organizations “from across the political spectrum to promote strong technology laws.”

“As we make clear in our public policy transparency report, Google’s sponsorship or collaboration with a third party organization doesn’t mean that we endorse the organization’s entire agenda or agree with other speakers or sponsors,” Google spokesperson said in the statement, touting the company’s record on sustainability. The spokesperson pointed out that Google is one of “the largest corporate purchasers of renewable energy.” 

Microsoft in a statement to The Hill also said that it supports addressing the issue of climate change, insisting that commitment is “unequivocal.”

“For the past decade, we’ve reduced emissions, invested in renewable energy, supported policies to address climate change and enabled people around the globe to use technology to accelerate progress on this issue,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in the statement.

The spokesperson noted that Microsoft’s engagement with LibertyCon was limited to “a breakfast reception for student leaders to discuss topics including rural broadband and privacy.” 

Ocasio-Cortez and Pingree in the letter on Monday wrote that they understand sponsorships “do not automatically indicate the company endorses the variety of political viewpoints that may be presented at these events.”

“However, given the magnitude and urgency of the climate crisis that we are now facing, we find it imperative to ensure that the climate-related views espoused at LibertyCon do not reflect the values of your companies going forward,” the lawmakers wrote.

They compared the pamphlets and messages disseminated by the CO2 Coalition to “propaganda” dispensed by the tobacco industry.

“We must be resolute against granting this campaign [against climate science] any credibility, whether intentional or otherwise,” Ocasio-Cortez and Pingree wrote.

Facebook and Google have both signed contracts to buy huge amounts of renewable energy. The top tech companies have sought to position themselves as leaders in the push for clean energy and sustainability.

The largest tech firms often associate with libertarian groups as well, seeing them as a natural partner in the fight against heavy regulation. 

Updated at 5:00 p.m.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Chellie Pingree Mark Zuckerberg
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