Our favourite woman from the Bronx is doing what she does: calling rich people out.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) sent a letter to Microsoft, Google, and Facebook executives dated Friday questioning whether these three tech giants are actually down to stop climate change. If they were, why did they recently sponsor a conference that included a session promoting climate change denial?
We cannot allow the financing of misinformation campaigns to shape our democracy.
We can disagree on policy, but climate change is real. Period.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 28, 2019
LibertyCon, a student-led conference that invites students and non-students alike to learn about libertarianism, took place in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. Only two sessions were about climate change, according to this agenda, but the representatives took issue with one, in particular. The speaker, Caleb Rossiter, is a member of the CO2 Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The organisation is all about questioning climate change, which science has shown time and time again is an increasingly urgent problem.
Ocasio-Cortez and Pingree want to know what’s up with these companies’ decision to sponsor a conference that encourages this type of dangerous, climate-denying rhetoric. Google’s $US25,000 ($34,764) sponsorship and Facebook and Microsofts’ $US10,000 ($13,905) contributions became news last week, and these reps were quick to react. Their letter reads:
As you are well aware, the spreading of misinformation can be dangerous to our society. Today’s coordinated campaign to deny climate change, or to put a positive spin on its effects, is not unlike that of the tobacco companies which once sought to discredit their product’s link to cancer. Their propaganda kept the nation from addressing a public health crisis for years, leading to many preventable deaths. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again with climate change. We must be resolute against granting this campaign any credibility, whether intentional or otherwise.
A Google spokesperson said: “Every year, we sponsor organisations 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 organisation doesn’t mean that we endorse the organisation’s entire agenda or agree with other speakers or sponsors.”
A Microsoft spokesperson said: “Microsoft’s engagement with LibertyCon was through a breakfast reception for student leaders to discuss topics including rural broadband and privacy. Climate change is one of the most important issues of our time, and our commitment to addressing it is unequivocal.”
Facebook simply pointed us to its event sponsorship policies and commitment to fighting climate change. Spokesperson Andy Stone was sure to share the conference’s agenda with Earther to note that another panel on carbon taxes was also featured, but did not address the concerns raised by the Congresswomen in their letter.
The conference also included a panel with speakers from the Heartland Institute, which also fuels the climate denial machine. In all fairness, other topics include civil rights and criminal justice reform, but none of that detracts from the conference’s attempt to validate climate denial.
These tech companies purport to take climate change seriously—especially on the clean energy front. (Google, unfortunately, still has a lot to learn about managing the spread of climate misinformation.) These companies know climate change also creates a business opportunity, but they’re not bad enough to knowingly support climate deniers, right?
At least we can count on Ocasio-Cortez to hold them accountable when that looks like what they’re doing.