Big Tech attacks become rallying cry for GOP candidates

Jun 8, 2022, 9:13 PM | Updated: Jun 10, 2022, 9:39 am
Nevada Republican Senate hopeful Sam Brown chats with volunteers on April 21, 2022, at his campaign...

Nevada Republican Senate hopeful Sam Brown chats with volunteers on April 21, 2022, at his campaign headquarters in Reno, Nev. Brown is vying for the GOP nomination to face Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., in November's general election. The retired Army captain's opponents in the June 14 GOP primary include former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

(AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Shortly after launching his campaign last year for the Republican nomination in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race, Sam Brown got into a scrape with Twitter.

A Purple Heart recipient who was severely burned by an IED blast in Afghanistan, Brown posted a picture of himself saluting while in uniform along with the words “Freedom Isn’t Free.” After he filed for the Senate seat three days later, he said his post was flagged with a “potentially sensitive content” warning that would require Twitter users to click or tap on the post to confirm they want to view it.

Twitter explained the restriction by pointing to Brown’s account settings, which the company has said he could adjust. Regardless of what triggered the label, it gave Brown a powerful opportunity to tap into the resentment toward large technology companies that increasingly courses through the Republican Party.

“Either my face, my scars were sensitive or the fact that someone would salute in uniform our American flag or, most likely, this came just a few hours after I filed to run for Senate,” Brown told Fox News at the time. “As a Republican, we’re very used to seeing censorship happen on the Big Tech platforms.”

As the 2022 primary season moves forward next week with contests in several states including Nevada, that sense of persecution is animating the GOP effort to retake control of the Senate.

Brown’s GOP opponent, former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, frequently knocks “censorship of speech” as “one of the most onerous threats to our free democracy.” In Ohio, Senate Republican nominee JD Vance has warned that Big Tech companies are going to “destroy our nation.”

And in his controversial 11-point plan to “rescue” America, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who leads the GOP effort to regain the Senate majority, threatens legal action against social media companies that “censor speech and cancel people.”

The GOP offensive comes as Elon Musk has pursued a purchase of Twitter, articulating a philosophy aligned with many Republicans who argue that the social media efforts to blunt misinformation and propaganda have stifled conservatives from expressing their views. He has, for instance, said he would allow Donald Trump to rejoin the platform. The former president’s account was locked after he helped spark the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6, 2021.

In recent days, Musk has threatened to walk away from his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter, accusing the company of refusing to give him information about its spam bot and fake accounts. Musk has argued, without providing evidence, that 20% or more are bogus.

For voters confronting inflation, rising gas prices and gun violence, it’s unclear whether concerns about the role of large technology companies will resonate broadly this year. But it feeds a sense of animosity among some of the GOP’s most loyal voters, who remain angry that social media platforms barred the spread of vaccine and election misinformation and that Twitter limited the circulation of stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop before the 2020 election over fears that it was disinformation from Russia. Since then, no evidence has emerged of any Russian connections to the laptop.

“Big Tech is just doing what it wants to do and wants to go along with the liberals on taking our country and making this 1984,” 73-year-old former teacher William Holden of Gardnerville, Nevada, said at a Republican Party event in rural Nevada. He was referencing the dystopian novel by George Orwell about a society where “Big Brother is watching you” and the “Thought Police” monitor the ideas in people’s minds.

Despite such sentiment, a recent report by New York University researchers is one of several studies that have found no evidence of political bias dictating content moderation decisions on major platforms. NYU researchers noted that many conservative voices thrive on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Tech insiders in Washington and Silicon Valley remain largely unclear on how exactly Republicans plan to combat disinformation or implement new rules on how social media moderates content if the party succeeds in flipping the U.S. Senate.

“There is a constituency that tracks Elon Musk: contrarian voters who are tired of being bossed by Silicon Valley. But anti-tech rhetoric on the campaign trail or Twitter, no matter how hot it gets, will not magically transform into meaningful public policy outcomes in D.C.,” said Niki Christoff, a tech industry veteran and former GOP campaign operative.

Laxalt, the presumptive front-runner in Nevada’s Republican Senate primary, refers to technology companies as agents of the radical left and “wokeness,” along with the media, academia and Hollywood.

In April, he told a crowd of supporters gathered at a Las Vegas honky-tonk that Musk’s planned purchase was a “big win” over “radical Big Tech monopolies that have been stifling conservative free speech.”

“To watch all these Twitter employees in their cry rooms because, ‘Oh, my God, Elon Musk has pledged to allow an open, robust debate,’ is really something to behold,” he said.

Beyond Nevada, Republicans in Arizona and Ohio have also adopted Big Tech attacks as rallying cries, even when the candidates themselves have ties to Silicon Valley. In Arizona, Blake Masters, a former venture capitalist now running for the U.S. Senate with Trump’s backing, said Musk’s purchase of Twitter would be a win for both free speech and “election integrity” — a phrase Republicans have used to raise questions about the legitimacy of U.S. elections, specifically Trump’s defeat, despite a coalition of top government and industry officials declaring the 2020 election to be “the most secure in American history.”

“Beyond Elon, we need a suite of new policies, from treating the major social media companies as common carriers to writing a Digital Bill of Rights to requiring transparency and oversight of Google’s search algorithm,” he said in a statement.

In Ohio, Vance, who previously worked in the technology industry, parlayed a question about transgender kids participating in youth sports into an attack on Google, accusing the company of elevating search engine results that call into question traditional gender roles.

“If we don’t go after the Big Tech companies, we might win a battle here and there, but the tech companies are going to destroy our nation and what it is to be a human being in this country,” he said at a GOP debate before he won his primary.

Some veteran Republicans worry the messaging will lead to overreach and a departure from pro-business orthodoxy. Former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who chairs a Big Tech advocacy group called The Competitiveness Coalition, is urging his fellow Republicans to focus on addressing censorship issues instead of resorting to antitrust legislation, which he said would hinder innovation, competition and entrepreneurship.

“You need a scalpel to address those things. You don’t need a sledgehammer,” Brown said.

__

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Niki Christoff’s last name.

___

Associated Press writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and Marcy Gordon in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A part of a mortar shell lays on a road in Yahidne village, as civilians rebuild their homes after ...
Associated Press

‘We cannot pause our lives’: Ukrainians begin rebuilding

YAHIDNE, Ukraine (AP) — On the outskirts of a Ukrainian village stand the remnants of a small school that was partially destroyed in the early weeks of the Russian invasion. Surrounded by tall pine trees, the school’s broken windows offer glimpses of abandoned classrooms that are unlikely to see students again anytime soon. It is […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Stewart and Mitchell clash in Seattle-Indiana matchup

Indiana Fever (5-16, 2-11 Eastern Conference) at Seattle Storm (12-7, 6-5 Western Conference) Seattle; Friday, 10 p.m. EDT BOTTOM LINE: Breanna Stewart and Kelsey Mitchell meet when Seattle takes on Indiana. Stewart is first in the WNBA averaging 21.5 points per game and Mitchell ranks third in the league averaging 19.2 points per game. The […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

India Hindus begin pilgrimage in Kashmir amid heavy security

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Thousands of Hindu devotees began an annual pilgrimage Thursday through mountain passes and meadows to an icy Himalayan cave in Indian-controlled Kashmir amid heavy security in the Muslim-majority region. Officials say pilgrims face heightened threat of attacks from rebels fighting against Indian rule and have for the first time tagged devotees […]
24 hours ago
FILE - A man walks near an advertisement of a Kirin brand beer in Tokyo on Aug. 25, 2020.  Kirin Ho...
Associated Press

Japan’s Kirin to sell Myanmar Brewery to sanctioned partner

BANGKOK (AP) — Kirin Holdings will sell its shares in Myanmar Brewery to its joint venture partner Myanma Economic Holdings Plc., the Japanese beverage giant said in a statement Thursday. Kirin said the share buyback agreement with MEHL, a company facing sanctions by the U.S. and other Western governments, took into account its employees and […]
24 hours ago
A currency trader walks by the screen showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) at a fo...
Associated Press

Asia stocks mixed after Wall St down, China manufacturing up

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets were mixed Thursday after the U.S. economy contracted and China reported stronger factory activity. Shanghai and Hong Kong gained, while Tokyo and Seoul declined. Oil prices advanced. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index edged down 0.1% on Wednesday after data showed the U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter […]
24 hours ago
New Zealand Police Minister Chris Hipkins during his press conference at Parliament, Wellington, Ne...
Associated Press

New Zealand designates Proud Boys a terrorist organization

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s government has declared that American far-right groups the Proud Boys and The Base are terrorist organizations. The two groups join 18 others including Islamic State that have been given an official terrorist designation, making it illegal in New Zealand to fund, recruit or participate in the groups, and […]
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Big Tech attacks become rallying cry for GOP candidates