Why Trump supporters called for Zuckerberg to be 'locked up'

Story on the Washington Examiner website here: Why Trump supporters called for Zuckerberg to be 'locked up'

Trump supporters attending his Saturday rally in Georgia turned against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, erupting in a chant of “lock him up," after Trump alleged the tech leader's election-related donations tilted the 2020 election in President Joe Biden's favor.

Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla donated a $400 million grant to the non-profit organization Center for Tech and Civic Life in 2020 — a gift billed as helping local jurisdictions administer elections safely and reliably during the pandemic.

Tech industry insiders say former President Donald Trump is dunking on Zuckerberg to retaliate for being banned from Facebook for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

“Trump whipping up crowds against Zuckerberg is his way of lobbying Facebook to allow him back on the platform, that’s what it’s really about,” said Adam Kovacevich, CEO of the Chamber of Progress, an advocacy group backed by Big Tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google. “His supporters don’t actually hate Facebook, but they're in support of Trump getting reinstated to the platform."

Trump told his supporters during Saturday's rally that Georgia officials "took $45 million from Mark Zuckerberg to fund election-related activities."

In response, supporters in the crowd chanted, "Lock him up." Trump responded, "Well, they should be looking into that."

Republicans say the funds Zuckerberg donated to the center unfairly helped Democrats during the 2020 election.

“It appears that 92% of CTCL grants were given to overwhelmingly Democrat-leaning precincts,” a group of House Republicans said in a letter in June.

“An elections supervisor in Lowndes County, Georgia, stated that CTCL was 'very lenient regarding what we could spend the money on. They put virtually no restrictions on it as long as it relates to the election,'” the letter read.

In an attempt to stop wealthy donors, House Republicans introduced a bill in July that would prohibit non-profit organizations from providing direct funding to election organizations, such as Zuckerberg, from influencing elections.

The bill, the End Zuckerbucks Act would amend the Internal Revenue Code to prohibit 501(c)(3) non-profits, which are tax-exempt organizations, from providing direct funding to state and local election officials, or they risk losing their tax-exempt status. The bill has not gained traction in Congress yet.

After the letter from the House Republicans was released, Zuckerberg said he did not play a role in determining which areas received funds from the donation. He also said the Center for Tech and Civic Life is an IRS-approved 501(c)(3) organization, meaning it is prohibited from engaging in partisan activities.

The center used Zuckerberg's donation to distribute funds and resources to 49 states in 2,500 election jurisdictions around the country, both Democratic- and Republican-leaning.

Facebook allies say the funding provided by Zuckerberg was needed to ensure the elections ran smoothly, arguing there is no evidence of foul play to help Democrats.

“Election officials around the country are woefully underfunded, and CTCL put in a lot of safeguards on how the money was to be spent, primarily to make the elections safer, so there was no political motivation around it,” said Katie Harbath, a former Facebook public policy director.

“Trump is selectively picking data points to fit a narrative he wants out there. If Trump and Republicans funded elections in the manner needed, we wouldn’t need private funding like this in the first place,” she added.