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Internet companies courting conservatives while cracking down on content

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Several of the largest internet companies are courting conservative allies, even as they crack down on content from the right after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Some have recruited employees from conservative groups while others are donating to Republican candidates.

After the Capitol riot by supporters of President Trump, Google paused political donations, removed the social media platform Parler — which was popular with conservatives — from its app store, and Google-owned YouTube booted Mr. Trump off its service. 

Google resumed its political donations before the end of January and has since contributed $15,000 to Republicans. Federal Election Commission filings show Google’s NetPAC gave the maximum contribution to leadership PACs for Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, both of whom have announced they will not run for re-election next year. It also gave $5,000 to Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who is facing a primary challenge in 2022 if she runs for re-election.

Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said the company stopped giving to lawmakers who voted against certifying the 2020 election but has continued giving to others. 

YouTube, meanwhile, intends to provide a path back to the web for Mr. Trump and is looking to make new inroads on the right. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said last month at an Atlantic Council event that the site would lift its suspension of Mr. Trump when it determined the risk of violence had decreased. 

YouTube also is hiring a new strategic partner manager for conservative civics partnerships in Washington. The job involves driving “political entities on the conservative side of the aisle” to use the site and “working with principals and their staff” to build a presence on YouTube, according to a listing for the position. 

The company says it has previously invested in conservative outreach and is continuing those efforts this year. 

“Like most companies, we have experts for many of our content categories and are continuing to grow the partnerships team that works specifically with a variety of civics creators, across the political spectrum,” said YouTubve spokeswoman Ivy Choi in an email.

Other tech companies that have cracked down on Mr. Trump or his supporters have added right-leaning staffers. Apple, which removed Parler’s app alongside Google, recently hired a key Koch Network staffer: Jesse Blumenthal, former Charles Koch Institute director of technology and innovation and Stand Together vice president.

Other Trump-averse tech platforms have sought out libertarian-leaning or free-market-oriented conservatives, too. For example, Reddit recently added Billy Easley, former senior policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity, the Koch Network’s main political arm. 

While Google and Apple’s outreach to the right has been more overt, Facebook’s critics have accused the social media giant of taking a more inconspicuous approach. The liberal outlet Popular Information accused Facebook of routing $50,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee after suspending political donations, which Facebook has disputed. 

Facebook, which previously paused all PAC spending through at least the first quarter of 2021, told The Washington Times it has not lifted that suspension. 

While large technology companies have different strategies to court conservatives, their actions make clear they have not written off Republicans entirely but are increasingly aligning themselves with those who have distanced themselves from Mr. Trump. 

Some of tech’s conservative outreach in Washington has been limited by the chilly reception it has received amid the companies’ crackdown on content coming from the right. For example, the Heritage Foundation in October rejected a $225,000 donation from Google and said it would return an $150,000 contribution from Facebook, in letters obtained by Axios.

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