- Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is backed by the billionaire founder of eBay, Politico reported.
- Pierre Omidyar is a well-known critic of Big Tech, donating $US150,000 ($AU199,574) to Whistleblower Aid last year.
- From PR to legal aid, here’s how Haugen’s expensive fight against Facebook is reportedly funded.
Fighting one of the most powerful companies in the world can be expensive, but Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen has the billionaire founder of eBay in her corner, according to a Wednesday Politico report.
His name is Pierre Omidyar, a well-known critic of Big Tech whose previous advocacy efforts have supported independent journalism in Hawaii, anti-monopoly campaigns, and employee activism.
Omidyar’s foundation donated $US150,000 ($AU199,574) to Whistleblower Aid last year – the same nonprofit responsible for Haugen’s legal representation.
Omidyar’s philanthropic organization, Luminate, is also providing Haugen’s PR operations in Europe, Politico’s Emily Birnbaum wrote. Bill Burton, Haugen’s top PR representative in the US, comes from the Center for Humane Technology, a group that Omidyar also funds.
Neither Haugen nor Omidyar has responded to claims of financial support detailed in Politico’s report, and were not immediately available to comment when contacted by Insider.
Compared to previous tech whistleblowers, Haugen has been able to capture the nation’s attention due in part to advanced press relations, starting with The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files and her “60 Minutes” appearance.
Sophie Zhang, another Facebook whistleblower who first spoke out about issues at the company in April 2021, has received less public attention.
After Haugen denounced Facebook for putting “profits before people” during her testimony to congress, Zhang tweeted, “If Congress wishes for me to testify, I will fulfill my civic duty, as I’ve publicly stated for the past half year.”
In an interview with Insider, Zhang said although she and Haugen saw completely different sides of the company, Haugen’s testimony felt familiar.
“There is basically no overlap between any of our details. What overlaps is our overall message,” she said.
-Sophie Zhang（张学菲） (@szhang_ds) October 12, 2021
Following Politico’s report, The Omidyar Network posted a blog titled “In Support of Tech Whistleblowers Who are Holding Tech to Account,” the author of which is not listed.
The blog post said the foundation supports Pinterest whistleblower Ifeoma Ozoma and her project, The Tech Worker Handbook, a resource guide for employees considering speaking out about workplace issues “in the public interest.”
“We are grateful to the brave people who have called out Big Tech for its bad behavior. They are an important part of creating systemic checks and balances for Big Tech,” the post continues. “Because of them, policymakers are taking notice and taking action to rein in their excessive power and restore trust and balance in digital markets.”