Two advocacy groups lobbying for increased government regulation of social media present themselves as part of a grassroots youth movement, but they are actually controlled by a massive left-wing dark money operation, according to business records reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Log Off Movement and Design It For Us, two groups that lobby for tech regulation while describing themselves as being led by college students, are registered as trade names of the North Fund, a liberal 501(c)(4) nonprofit managed by the consultancy Arabella Advisors. The North Fund has spent millions backing left-wing groups and Democratic causes, according to tax filings and Federal Election Commission (FEC) records.
A trade name is an alias adopted and used by a business entity that differs from their legal name. Log Off and Design It For Us are therefore different names under which the North Fund can operate.
Arabella Advisors is run by former Bill Clinton official Eric Kessler and manages several nonprofit entities, including the Sixteen Thirty Fund, Hopewell Fund, North Fund and New Venture Fund. These nonprofits variously contribute to numerous left-leaning groups, causes and Democratic candidates, according to tax filings and statements on the funds’ and Arabella’s websites.
“These groups like to present as grassroots-driven, and too many reporters treat them that way, when in fact the Arabella ‘dark money’ empire is orchestrating these political campaigns at the behest of left-wing megadonors” Scott Walter, president of Capital Research Center, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Design It For Us and Log Off both push for expanded government regulation of social media and technology in a bid to protect young people from the harms of technology. The groups engage in advocacy while maintaining the appearance of being run and staffed by college students and teenagers, referring to themselves variously as “youth-led.”
However, while the organizations tout their policy accomplishments, they don’t make public their relationship to a dark money organization engaged in partisan advocacy.
Design It For Us and the Log Off Movement were registered as trade names of the North Fund on March 1, 2023, and November 1, 2022, respectively. Design It For Us had little Twitter or Instagram presence prior to being registered as a trade name for the North Fund; since being taken over, however, the group now consistently posts multiple times a day.
Moreover, Log Off partnered with Accountable Tech, also a trade name of the North Fund and a fiscally-sponsored project of the Arabella-managed New Venture Fund, to launch Design It For Us prior to the September 2022 passage of The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act. Initially a campaign, Design It For Us eventually grew into a “coalition” of tech advocacy groups, according to its website.
Accountable Tech previously engaged in a campaign to stop Elon Musk from purchasing Twitter, taking issue with his promises to ease censorship. When that failed, they launched another campaign to get advertisers to abandon Twitter.
The North Fund has spent millions to promote groups that seek to expand the Supreme Court, block 22-week abortion bans and abolish the Electoral College, among other typically liberal policy goals, according to Influence Watch.
The North Fund also gave $4.1 million to Somos PAC, a Democrat-aligned political action committee focused on engaging Latino voters, in 2022. During the 2022 midterm elections, Somos spent millions to help get Democrats elected, Fox News reported.
Design It For Us has also worked with allies of the Democratic party to advance shared interests.
Design It For Us partnered with Randi Weingarten, who campaigned to keep schools closed during the pandemic then later denied doing so, and the American Federation of Teachers, the teachers’ union led by Weingarten that donates heavily to the Democratic party, to produce a report that called for social media platforms to identify and demote “misinformation and disinformation.”
Design It For Us takes credit for helping secure the passage of the California Age-Appropriate Design Code, which sought to impose safety regulations on social media platforms. As part of their campaign to secure the legislation’s passage, the group paid for full-page advertisements in the Los Angeles Times, directly lobbied California state legislators and sent a mobile billboard to a tech summit attended by lawmakers, according to Politico and Tech Policy Press.
A federal court issued an injunction on Sept. 18 stopping the law from taking effect, citing First Amendment concerns. The Judge argued some provisions of the bill may unconstitutionally target legal speech, according to court records.
Log Off and Design It For Us has recently been engaged in lobbying for two internet safety bills in Congress, the Kids Online Safety Act and the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act.
Among other things, the bills would allow government bodies to punish social media companies for allowing children to access certain kinds of content, and they wouldn’t allow minors to receive targeted ads. The two groups have lobbied senators, taken out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times and run digital ads, among other things, to campaign for the bills.
While Design It For Us is broadly critical of social media, the organization sometimes expresses support when it aligns with liberal policy goals. “Social media can be used for good,” the group tweeted alongside an article about an app intended to help minors get abortions.
The Washington Post described groups like Design It For Us as “a formidable lobbying force.” Members of Design It For Us have had dozens of meetings with congressional leaders and White House officials, according to the Post.
Design It For Us and the Log Off Movement rely heavily on their grassroots youth appeal when influencing policy. Emma Lembke, founder of Log Off and Co-Chair of Design It For Us, said that “integrating our lived experience into the regulatory process is essential to getting it right” when testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Lembke also interned for Accountable Tech, another registered trade name of the North Fund. It was during her time as an intern at the Arabella-linked organization that she “spearheaded the ‘Design It For Us’ lobbying campaign,” and received training in managing advocacy campaigns, according to her LinkedIn.
Nicole Gill, the executive director of Accountable Tech, serves on the advisory board of Design It For Us.
Similarly, Design It For Us tweeted that “We don’t have PhDs or resumes full of Hill jobs, but we do have our lived experience” and that “we’re sounding the alarm by sharing our stories and advocating for policy for safer online platforms for kids, teens, and young adults.”
The Log Off Movement, Design It For Us and the North Fund did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
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