For Republicans running for Senate this year, “big tech” has become a tempting target, a phrase used to condemn the censorship of conservative voices on social media, the invasion of privacy and the corruption of America’s youth — or all of the above. is done for.
But for three candidates in some of the hottest races of 2022 — Blake Masters, JD Vance and Mehmet Oz — the condemnation comes with a complication: They have a deep connection to the industry, either as an investor, promoter or employee. In addition, his work included some questionable uses of consumer data that he now criticizes.
Mr. Masters and Mr. Vance have embraced contradictions with the fervor of the convert.
“Basically, it’s my expertise from working in Silicon Valley and working with these companies that has given me this perspective,” said Mr. Masters, who on Tuesday aired on his back in the Republican primary for the Senate in Arizona. Let’s enter together, said on Wednesday. “As they’ve grown, they’ve become very broad and very powerful.”
Mr. Vance, on the website of his campaign for Ohio’s open Senate seat, announced the breakdown of large technology firms, saying: “I know the technology industry well. I’ve worked in and invested in, And I’m sick of politicians who talk big about Big Tech but do nothing about it. The tech industry promised us all a better life and faster communication; instead, it steals our private information , sells it to the Chinese, and then censors conservatives and others.”
But some technology activists simply aren’t buying it, especially not from two political newcomers whose Senate is controlled by Peter Thiel, the first outside investor in Facebook and a longtime board member of the tech giant. Mr. Thiel’s own company, Palantir, works closely with federal military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies eager to gain access to its confidential data analysis technology.
“Keeping track of what you do online is a huge, hugely profitable industry,” said Sacha Howarth, executive director of the Tech Oversight Project, a new liberal interest group pushing for stricter rules for technology companies. “Despite the prospects of these candidates in the Senate, I would imagine that if Peter Thiel is investing in them, he is investing in his future.”
Mr. Masters, a disciple of Mr. Thiel and former chief operating officer of Mr. Thiel’s venture capital firm, oversaw investments in Palantir and pressured it to spread its technology, which could be used by clients to explore patterns. For analyzes mountains of raw data. ,
Oz, the Republican candidate for an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, was part of a consortium of investors that founded ShareCare, a website that gave users the opportunity to ask questions about health and wellness — and marketers from the health care industry. allowed them a chance to answer.
Sharecare, a feature of the RealAge Test, inquired millions of users about their health characteristics, ostensibly to help them shorten their lifespan, then released the test results to paying customers in the pharmaceutical industry.
Vance, a Republican candidate in Ohio and another Thiel student, used Mr. Thiel’s money to create his own venture capital firm, Naria Capital, which helped fund Catholic prayer and meditation app Hello, whose privacy policies allow some users to Allows sharing of data. for targeted advertising.
The Vance campaign said that the candidate’s stake in Hello did not give him or his firm decision-making power, and Hello Chief Executive Alex Jones said that private, sensitive data such as journal entries or reflections were encrypted and not sold. were not shared, rented or otherwise. data broker. He added that “personal sensitive personal data” was not shared “with any advertising partner”.
All three Senate candidates have targeted the technology industry in their campaigns against the harvesting of data from unsuspecting users and the invasion of privacy by greedy firms.
In a blurry video posted in July 2021, Mr Masters says, “The Internet, which was supposed to give us a brilliant future, is being used to silence us.”
Mr Vance, in a campaign Facebook video, suggested that Congress make data collection illegal – or at least mandate disclosure – before technology companies “harvest our data and then sell it back to us in the form of targeted advertising.” “
one in december Video presence immediately after your campaign announcementDr. Oz declared, “I’ve taken Big Pharma, I’ve gone to war with Big Tech, I’ve gone up against agrochem companies, big companies, and I’ve got the marks to prove it.”
It should come as no surprise that more candidates for higher positions have deep ties to the technology industry, said Michael Rosen, an assistant fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who has written extensively about the industry. That’s where the money is these days, and the reach of technology extends through industries including healthcare, social media, hardware and software, and consumer electronics.
Mr. Rosen said, “What is novel in this cycle is clearly candidates on the right who are arguing for the government to step in and regulate these companies because, in his view, they themselves cannot be relied upon to regulate.”
He expressed surprise that “a free-market, conservative-type candidate would think the government would do a fairer and more credible job of regulating and controlling speech than the private sector.”
Technology experts on the left say candidates like Mr. Masters and Mr. Vance are Trojan horses, taking popular stances to win federal office with the intention of advancing to those positions in the Senate.
Ms Howarth, whose group has taken aim at platforms such as Facebook and Amazon, said states such as California were already moving forward with regulations to prevent online marketers from deterring consumers from certain products or inappropriately influencing behavior.
He said he believed that Republicans, if they took control of Congress, would impose weak federal rules that would supersede state rules.
“Democrats should invoke hypocrisy here,” she said.
Mr Masters said he was sympathetic to the concern that empowering the government to regulate technology would only lead to another form of abuse, but, he added, “in this age of network monopolies the answer lies in its own hands.” Don’t throw up and shout ‘License-‘ Fair.'”
Multinational technology firms such as Google and Facebook, Mr. Masters said, have overtaken national governments in power.
As far as the “Trojan Horse” claim is concerned, he said, “When I’m in the US Senate, I’m going to do whatever I say.”
It is not clear whether such complex cases will have an effect on the fall campaigns. Mr Masters’ Republican Senate rival Jim Laman in Arizona has advertised the California technology industry as a “fake” chasing horse – but with limited effectiveness. In a debate this month, Mr Laman said Mr Masters was “owned” By your payers in Big Tech.
But Mr. Masters, known as former President Donald J. Trump has the backing, appears to be the clear favorite for the nomination.
Representative Tim Ryan, Mr. Vance’s Democratic opponent in Ohio, made clear reference to this. “Big Tech Billionaires Who Drink In Silicon Valley” And control the campaign of Republicans.
Dr. Oz’s Democratic opponent in Pennsylvania, John Fetterman, has not raised the issue.
Mr Vance’s spokesman, Taylor van Kirk, said he was very serious about his promises to limit the influence of technology companies.
“Jedi has long been vocal about its desire to break up Big Tech and hold them accountable for their redundancies,” she said. “He firmly believes that protecting the constitutional rights of Americans needs to reduce their power over our politics and economy.”
Oz campaign did not respond to requests for comment.