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Friday, December 8, 2023

Meta Influence at KSG

Many posts have discussed the political uses of philanthropy

 Joseph Menn at WP:

A prominent disinformation scholar has accused Harvard University of dismissing her to curry favor with Facebook and its current and former executives in violation of her right to free speech.

Joan Donovan claimed in a filing with the Education Department and the Massachusetts attorney general that her superiors soured on her as Harvard was getting a record $500 million pledge from Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg’s charitable arm.


As the main attraction at a Zoom meeting for top Kennedy School donors on Oct. 29 that year, Donovan said the papers showed that Meta knew the harms it was causing. Former top Facebook communications executive Elliot Schrage asked repeated questions during the meeting and said she badly misunderstood the papers, Donovan wrote in a sworn declaration included in the filing.

Ten days after the donors meeting, Kennedy School dean Doug Elmendorf, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, emailed Donovan with pointed questions about her research goals and methods, launching an increase in oversight that restricted her activities and led to her dismissal before the end of her contract, according to the declaration. Donovan wrote that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s $500 million gift for a new artificial intelligence institute at the university, announced Dec. 7 that year, had been in the works before the donor meeting.

The Donovan case comes at a time when researchers who focus on social media platforms find themselves under increasing attack. Trump adviser Stephen Miller’s legal foundation has sued academic and independent researchers, claiming that they conspired with government agencies to suppress speech, and Republican-led congressional committees have subpoenaed their records, adding to the pressure.

In addition, Big Tech companies themselves have sponsored research, made grants to some colleges and universities, and doled out data to professors who agree to specific avenues of inquiry.