The Graham family’s flagship magazine published a report claiming that regulating Big Tech would put US national security at risk — and took money from Big Tech to do it.
Foreign Policy — an influential international affairs magazine controlled by the storied Graham family, which oversaw the Washington Post’s reporting on Watergate — sent out an email to subscribers in May warning against a slate of antitrust proposals.
The email, topped by the Foreign Policy logo and an imposing graphic of a bald eagle next to the Kremlin, warns that a new “assessment” has found that bipartisan antitrust proposals under consideration in Congress “could exacerbate existing vulnerabilities in data privacy, cybersecurity, and mis- and disinformation.”
“The brief, produced by FP Analytics, the in-house policy research division of Foreign Policy magazine, highlights the need to ensure that any new legislation targeting the technology industry addresses national security issues to protect U.S. citizens, companies, and government agencies,” the email reads.
While the email makes no mention of an outside sponsor, readers who click through to the full missive will find out that the “assessment” was produced “with support” and “in partnership” with a group called the Computer and Communications Industry Association — a longtime tech lobbyist funded by companies including Meta, Google, Amazon and Apple.
The Big Tech heavyweights have a financial interest in defeating the antitrust bills the Foreign Policy report warns against, including a proposal from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that would stop tech giants from boosting their own products in search results.
Heather Greenfield, CCIA’s communications director, declined to reveal how much the group paid Foreign Policy when contacted by The Post. She also denied the appearance of a conflict of interest.
“The report was prepared entirely by FP personnel and CCIA was not shown draft content before it was published,” Greenfield said. “Organizations regularly sponsor analyses by FP’s Analytics division because of the high quality of its work.”
Foreign Policy did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Post.
The 52-year-old publication has a relatively small but influential audience and frequently publishes commentary from authoritative names like Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, CNN host Fareed Zakaria and political scientist Yascha Mounk.
It was bought in 2008 by Graham Holdings, a $3 billion conglomerate that also controls the website Slate, several local television stations and other media ventures. The company’s chairman, Donald Graham, served on Facebook’s board from 2009 to 2015.
Graham is the son of the late Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham — whose unflinching leadership of the newspaper helped bring about the downfall of President Richard Nixon. He sold the paper to Jeff Bezos in 2013 for $250 million.
FP Analytics, the Foreign Policy division that published the CCIA brief, describes itself as able to position “public and private-sector clients at the forefront of policy-shaping discussions.”
The division says it is editorially independent from the magazine and lists BP, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a diplomatic academy linked to the United Arab Emirates government as clients.
Its report claims the proposed antitrust bills “could result in a range of unintended consequences that would hinder — rather than strengthen — the global competitiveness of U.S. tech companies by overlooking broader threats to U.S. technology leadership, introducing new national security risks, and privileging foreign competitors.”
For example, the Klobuchar-Grassley bill could strengthen the market position of foreign competitors to US tech firms, who may not respond to “mis- and disinformation” as reliably as American companies, the report says.
Backers of the bill such as the liberal Center for American Progress disagree, arguing that increasing competition in the tech space “will help maintain the dynamic, competitive U.S. markets that are a major source of economic and global power.”
The CCIA’s work with Foreign Policy is the latest in a series of Big Tech-backed campaigns against antitrust bills that are gaining momentum in Congress. In recent weeks, the CCIA has also purchased television ads claiming that antitrust bills would make inflation worse by “breaking products that American consumers love.”
The CCIA spent a whopping $22 million on television ads during the week of May 27 alone, according to advertising data firm AdImpact.
Other Big Tech-linked campaigns have also sought to portray antitrust bills as national security risks.
In April, a high-profile coterie of former US military and intelligence including ex-Obama administration defense secretary Leon Panetta and former national intelligence director James Clapper signed a letter warning that antitrust bills could “hinder America’s key technology companies in the fight against cyber and national security risks emanating from Russia’s and China’s growing digital authoritarianism.”
Panetta, Clapper and several other signatories neglected to mention that they currently work for firms funded by Google and other Big Tech clients.
“Big Tech acting like they care about national security is like Five Guys claiming to care about your diet,” Garret Ventry, a consultant and former senior aide to Sen. Grassley and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), told The Post. “It’s laughable.”