Free Press Action Fund was founded in 2003 as the campaign and lobbying arm of the left-of-center media advocacy organization Free Press. Its main policy goals are to restore the internet regulatory policy net neutrality, protect online privacy, and break up media corporations.
Free Press Action Fund, which is associated with Free Press and principally operated by the same staff, organizes rallies, protests, activist training, and town-hall meetings while also coordinating petition drives, calling campaigns to lawmakers, and other events to influence public debate. It claims to have organized over 1.4 million activists.
Free Press and Free Press Action Fund have operated most actively in the debate over net neutrality, a regulatory policy governing how bandwidth is allocated that some have argued will “turn the internet into a public utility.” Free Press Action Fund has made restoring net neutrality—first instituted under the Obama administration but later repealed under the Trump administration in 2018—its top priority.
To this end, Free Press Action Fund participated in a campaign to lobby the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against repealing net neutrality in 2017. It helped generate comments to the FCC with other left-of-center groups like the ACLU, the Center for Media Justice, CREDO Action, Color of Change, Common Cause, Demand Progress, Popular Resistance, Daily Kos, Fight for the Future, and the Nation to protest outside of the FCC’s headquarters.
After net neutrality was repealed, Free Press Action Fund coordinated more protests with Demand Progress and Fight for the Future outside of Senate offices to advocate for a reinstatement of the federal regulatory regime while also hosting a petition drive urging Congress to reinstate the Obama-era regulations.
Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media Merger
Free Press Action Fund claimed that in 2018 one of its greatest achievements was stopping the merger between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media. Free Press Action Fund had been attacking the right-of-center Sinclair Broadcast Group as purveyors of ”propaganda” since 2004, organizing protests at the FCC and at the headquarters of Sinclair Broadcast Group as well filing petitions and legal challenges against the merger.
T-Mobile and Sprint Merger
Free Press Action Fund used similar tactics to fight the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, lobbying the FCC to block the deal and labelling the joining of the two companies as an action that would ”cut the cord for people of color.” Adult activists of Free Press Action Fund went so far as to hold small protests dressed as pirates, witches, scarecrows and in other costumes in front of T-Mobile and Sprint storefronts across the country.
Anti-Free Speech Activism
In 2018, Free Press Action Fund led in the creation of an organization called ”Change the Terms,” which seeks to attack free speech activities online. Free Press Action Fund seeks to target what it defines as ”hate speech” and ”extremism” online together with left-of-center activist groups Center for American Progress, Color of Change, and the Southern Poverty Law Center—a controversial organization with a long-history of labelling conventional right-of-center groups, particularly social-conservative groups such as the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom, as ”hate groups” and equating them to violent extremists.
Change the Terms has advocated for changes in corporate policies and online terms of service to reduce alleged “hateful behavior” online.
Free Press Action Fund receives funding from the same organizations who donate to its sister organization Free Press. Free Press reportedly receives anywhere between $170,000 and nearly $600,000 of its annual revenue from membership fees.
In 2017, Free Press Action Fund reported that it received $372,054 in donations; in 2016, $$712,700; and in 2015, $255,264. In 2017 it reported that it spent $1,001,117 on lobbying, advocacy, and other activities; in 2016, $526,972; and in 2015, $416,326.