By Representative Lorenzo Sierra
Today’s political landscape is filled with partisan opportunists, if not outright conspiracy theorists, and they have unfortunately gained traction in our daily dialogue. From the likes of Arizona’s own Congressman Paul Gosar to Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, extremists continue to push unfounded claims about the results of our election and promote dangerous rhetoric. More recently, we’ve seen the far-right continue their bizarre and retaliatory attacks against digital platforms for supposedly “censoring” conservative voices.
The unhinged nature of this conversation around tech issues, and its growing national traction, got so out of control that it caught the attention of President Biden, who revoked a Trump executive order that sought to reduce legal protections for online platforms.
And there was good reason to do so: this Republican-driven rhetoric has nothing to do with protecting freedom of speech. It’s simply a coordinated attack to chip away at the foundations of our democracy and unfortunately draw attention away from the continued GOP assault on people’s free and secure access to voting. Not coincidentally, these GOP-led attacks will disproportionately put up obstacles to vote for minorities and lower-income families. These efforts at voter suppression go against everything this country stands for, and the continued attacks on tech companies are part of the overall game plan.
When Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz makes comments about people “taking up arms” against technology companies, it isn’t by accident. The accessibility and openness that technology has given to people from all walks of life scares the right-wing extremists who are now trying to disenfranchise those who disagree with them. For those who are trying to make it harder for people to vote, reliable access to authoritative information provided by technology is one of the scariest possibilities out there. So, they will go to great lengths to drum up any argument they can use as an excuse to shut down that access and disconnect communities.
We all know there have been some problems with some of the digital platforms. To say otherwise would be disingenuous. But I hope that as we look to the future, my colleagues will avoid fanning the flames of a partisan-driven movement surrounding technology policy. These are critically important issues that deserve discussion, and a measured approach is needed. For example: while I do not believe we should rush to the defense of Facebook, the immediate and politically charged Republican backlash following the Oversight Board’s ruling against President Trump revealed the true motivation behind their anti-tech agenda.
The last thing Arizona’s leaders should do is support policies that will only play into the partisan-backed goal of demonizing and targeting technology companies because they had the fortitude to stand up to Donald Trump and the Big Lie. Ultimately, that will be bad for our economy and our democracy. And with the recent Supreme Court ruling that upheld our state’s restrictive voting laws, the need for our state’s more level-headed political leadership – from Phoenix to Washington – to focus on the most pressing issues facing our democracy today could not be clearer. Let’s work on common sense policies around technology issues and avoid joining the “witch hunt” led by ideologues and extremists.