Congressional Democrats and Republicans agree that Big Tech companies are too powerful, says a Texas congressman who is a leader on the issue.
“These Big Tech companies have gotten to the point that they own the government, in a sense,” Rep. Lance Gooden, co-chair and co-founder of the Freedom From Big Tech Caucus, says, adding that “people are tired of being censored, of being policed, by Big Tech.”
With many Democrats agreeing that Congress should place some limits on the power of Big Tech platforms, the Biden administration has called on these companies to stop the spread of “misinformation” or “disinformation.”
During an interview with Axios on climate change, White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy said that “tech companies have to stop allowing specific individuals over and over again to spread disinformation.”
To fix this problem, the former Environmental Protection Agency administrator said, “we need the tech companies to really jump in.”
Gooden joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the dangers of Big Tech companies’ policing information, and how his Freedom From Big Tech Caucus is working to rein in platforms such as Google and Twitter.
Also on today’s show, we cover these stories:
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical officer to the president and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says he plans to retire at the end of President Joe Biden’s term.
- A new report details “failures” in the law enforcement response to the school shooting that left 21 dead in Uvalde, Texas.
- According to data from Gallup polling, Americans’ confidence in newspapers and television news has sunk to an all-time low.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: It is my pleasure to welcome to the show Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas. Rep. Gooden is the co-chair and co-founder of the Freedom From Big Tech Caucus. Rep. Gooden, thank you so much for being here today.
Rep. Lance Gooden: Thanks for having me.
Allen: Congressman, the Freedom From Big Tech Caucus was established last year to shine a light on the abuses of Big Tech companies. Could you just talk a little bit about what you and your colleagues in this caucus are really trying to accomplish?
Gooden: We want the American people to be free to do as they please with respect to social media, purchasing goods, living their lives. And these Big Tech companies have gotten to the point that they own the government, in a sense. They operate however they please, they have no rules and regulations that are enforced. And people are tired of being censored, of being policed by Big Tech.
And what’s interesting is, this has become a bipartisan feeling. I have many Democratic colleagues who are interested in some of the work I’m doing. And since I’ve come to Congress—I’m in year three of my time in Congress—the one issue that I have found that has been bipartisan is this desire to rein in Big Tech. The motivations perhaps are different, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, but the end goal seems to be pretty similar when I talk to my Democratic colleagues about this issue.
So it’s really fascinating how it can bring people together from different sides of the aisle.
Allen: Wow. That’s encouraging to hear because these days, doesn’t seem like there’s too much that Republicans and Democrats can lock arms on.
Gooden: It’s really the, yeah, truly the one issue that I have found common ground on with my colleagues on the Democratic side.
Allen: That’s wonderful. Well, let’s talk a little bit about what we’re seeing from the Biden administration. Gina McCarthy is the White House national climate adviser. She’s a proponent of wind and solar energy, electric cars, and so on. Last month during an interview with Axios, she spoke about the need for Big Tech companies to stop the spread of disinformation about climate change.
So Congressman, I want to get your reaction. What’s the role of companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook here?
Gooden: Well, these companies, they’re run by liberals. They have their desires to enact their agenda. Their agenda is set by their employees, their senior leaders, that we all know are big Democratic contributors. In the case of this climate change issue, they’re policing thought. They are being asked by the Biden administration to ensure that things are, quote, “accurate” and the definition of accuracy is whatever they want it to be.
And so we go back to the February, winter February freeze in Texas two years ago. There was criticism of these wind turbines that froze. I recall them saying that was all inaccurate speech against renewable energy. And we’ve seen many instances where criticisms of things that these climate change activists support have actually been very accurate, but they’ve still been flagged as not true and taken off these platforms.
And so we want the Biden administration to get out of the way and let people have an open discourse on social media and stop the policing from the government and from these social media platforms.
Allen: Yeah. And you and your colleagues at the Freedom From Big Tech Caucus recently you wrote a letter to White House adviser Gina McCarthy, asking for information about if she has been in touch with these Big Tech companies on this issue, if she is asking them to stop the spread of misinformation.
So what do we know? What do we know about the White House’s directives toward Big Tech companies? Are they asking them specifically to stop spread of information that they deem to be inaccurate?
Gooden: I suspect they are. They don’t respond. There’s no oversight in Washington in this administration. That’s what happens when one party controls both houses of Congress and the White House. And the party in power in the White House doesn’t have to answer to anyone, whether that’s Republican or Democrat, frankly.
But in this case, the White House, there are no hearings on the House or Senate side. So when we ask questions at the White House, we often don’t get responses.
I also ask her to preserve records. Because when we retake the House this November, as I think we will, we’ll be doing a major oversight of this administration that will start on Day One in January. And I’m confident that one of the many issues that we tackle will be these conversations that they’ve had with Big Tech.
Because your original question was, what have they said, what have they asked? The answer is, I don’t know. I suspect there’s all kinds of meetings and conversations happening that probably shouldn’t be happening. And those are things that, as we have seen in this current Congress, you can investigate a prior administration and get pretty good bits of information if you’re in a position of power and can control a subpoena.
Allen: So let’s chat a little bit more about that partnership between Democrats and Republicans on this issue. Just share, how are you-all on the Hill working together to make sure that Big Tech is held accountable?
Gooden: There’s a collection of bills that Big Tech absolutely hates. They do everything from rein in some of these monopolies, to outlaw their methods of algorithms and whatnot that don’t allow competitors to perform in their search engines and in their shopping platforms, etc., these stores that are on your phones that block other apps that are competitors, etc.
There’s a package of three or four bills, I believe it is, this started over I think a year ago. And it’s primarily run by members of the Judiciary Committee with sponsors from other committees across the House.
I’m on a bill that deals with monopolies with [Rep.] Pramila Jayapal. She’s the leader of the Progressive Caucus. She’s from Seattle, she has Amazon in her district. She’s probably the most liberal member of the entire U.S. House, and she and I are working on this build together.
Now, her motivations are a bit different than mine. Democrats think that Big Tech is evil because of giving platforms to conservatives. They don’t like them for different reasons. But frankly, I don’t care what her motivations are if the end goal is the reining in of Big Tech. But this particular issue has been bipartisan.
[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, obviously, she controls the agenda. I don’t know if she’s going to move these bills. But I hear that the Democrats that are involved are pushing her to.
But one of the big problems we have is Big Tech has a hold on some of these members. I don’t know, Speaker Pelosi has not come out and said her position. She represents the San Francisco area, we’ve got a lot of Big Tech people in that part of the country, and they do a pretty good job of showering donations onto both Republicans and Democrats that seem very leery of upsetting them.
And so we’ve had our work cut out for us. I remember when I first came out for some of these proposals, I heard from the Apple lobbyists, from the Amazon lobbyists. And it wasn’t a very friendly time.
And they’re very, very much aware that these bills are supported by the American people. The American people don’t believe that Big Tech should be running their lives, and censoring their speech, and determining what products they purchase.
But Big Tech is not interested in that. They want to keep doing as they’re doing, which is why they run these ads on Facebook. They run these ads lying to people, saying that if these bills pass, you’re not going to be able to buy cheap goods on Amazon and small businesses are going to go out of business. It’s just not true. But we see this coordinated effort from Big Tech, from Washington, to across the United States to discourage any kind of action that might rein them in.
Allen: Yeah, yeah. And of course, now with this, one of many, but one of the latest incidents with Gina McCarthy calling on these Big Tech companies to censor information that has to do with climate, and climate change, and energy policy.
And of course, right now energy is a hot topic, as Americans are paying so much at the pump and we’re all having conversations about how energy costs can be lowered and get down. And of course, the Biden administration and conservatives have very differing views on the solutions.
Congressman, would you share just a little bit about America’s current energy landscape? Where is most of our energy coming from right now?
Gooden: Well, it’s coming from all over. But … there’s no new energy coming in that should be. President [Donald] Trump had opened up America. We had the Keystone pipeline, we had these companies pursuing new leases and new drilling, and all in various parts of the United States.
And President [Joe] Biden on Day One reduced that in a very big way. And he said that he wants to get us off of oil and he wants to end oil production. And yet he’s out gallivanting and traveling the world, asking other nations for their oil, asking Saudi Arabia to do more when we could be doing more here at home. And that’s very frustrating to people.
He has helped increase this cost of oil all over the world. He blames the Russians, he blames the Ukraine war, he blames the Saudis. But the United States has played a big role, by way of his policies, in helping drive up energy costs and the price of oil. And several factors are at play, that is true. But one of those is a reduction of output here in the United States.
And I think it’s very frustrating and we’re in a bad spot. And I hope that we’ll have some changes come November. And in Washington, we can get some answers to some of these questions you’ve asked. Conversations that are being had between this administration and these climate change activists, and about policies that they’ve pursued that aren’t good for the American people, that aren’t good for this economy. They’ve helped increase inflation and gotten us to this point.
And I think it’s gotten away from them, to the point that they don’t really have a solution. I don’t believe in my heart that Joe Biden wanted inflation to go to the number that it’s at today, but it has certainly gotten away from him. And at this point he’s so dug in, he can’t admit that what he’s done has helped contribute to that and that there’s no turning back.
And so I’m real curious to see what some of these conversations are that have been had over the last few months—
Gooden: … between these outside groups.
You mentioned Gina McCarthy. To go back to her, she’s a prime candidate for someone to leave this administration and get a fancy, multimillion-dollar-paying job at one of these Big Tech firms. Watch what she does when she leaves the White House. I suspect she’ll be making lots of money at a firm like a Facebook or an Amazon.
This happens all the time. These administration officials, they get in bed with Big Tech, or whatever organization it is that they seem to be interested in, and then they’ve got a nice cushy gig when they leave the White House.
Allen: When we look at the Biden administration’s energy policies, we obviously know that they differ quite a lot from former President Donald Trump. But in comparison to previous Democrat administrations, are they that different?
Gooden: I’ve asked that question, too. Because things are so bad, I have to go back in time where, was it this bad when [Barack] Obama was president or [Bill] Clinton was president? I don’t know that it was.
I think some of these green groups have become more sophisticated, more active. I certainly don’t believe when we had a liberal majority on the court, or a conservative majority, that people were marching in front of houses of Supreme Court justices.
I don’t remember a time during the Obama, Clinton, or Bush days when there were so many threats of violence against sitting members of the Supreme Court. Or some of the outrage that we have seen, or the hesitation on the part of attorneys general to enforce the law, and protect these people, and stop this nonsense and all the craziness that we see. But we’re certainly in uncharted times now.
And it’s frustrating, it’s a little scary, but things are really bad with this administration. I don’t think we’ve ever seen such incompetence—
Gooden: … on the level of any president as we have.
People didn’t like Bill Clinton perhaps, or they maybe they just didn’t like Barack Obama. But I don’t think anyone ever said that they were incompetent. You may have disagreed with them, but they weren’t incompetent. And what we see from this administration is just total incompetence. It’s not just actions that we disagree with, it’s things that just don’t even make sense.
And we wonder, have we hit bottom yet? Or is it going to get worse?
Allen: Yeah. Well, you mentioned that you’re optimistic that Republicans may retake the House with this next election. If that were to happen, what do you think would be the top priority of yourself and your Republican colleagues?
Gooden: Well, I get asked that a lot. People say, “What are you going to do?” And I think that the American people, Republicans especially, I think that they think that winning back the House means all of these problems start to get better. And while that is true, there is no scenario where, even if we win the Senate and the House, where we’re going to magically pass legislation to fix the country that’s going to go to Joe Biden’s desk that he would sign.
People have to remember, we will still have a Democrat president in charge for two more years until the next election. So I try to remind my constituents that winning back the House means not that we’re going to turn things around with respect to policy, it means we will stop the enactment of bad policy, one. And two, and this is perhaps more important, we will begin a process of oversight that has not existed since Joe Biden took office.
I remind my constituents, when Donald Trump was president, they witnessed major oversight. We didn’t agree with it, but we saw the Democrats create absolute hell for Donald Trump when they were in charge and they ran the House. And you’re going to see that in a different way come January, where Republicans are going to raise hell, we’re going to ask tough questions, and we’re going to provide oversight.
And I have spent the first two years of my time in Congress watching Nancy Pelosi and Democrats conduct oversight of the Trump administration. And I have been learning, and watching, and seeing what they have shown me as appropriate and acceptable.
And so I am taking my cues. This is the first time I’ve ever said this, but I am taking my cues from Nancy Pelosi’s team with respect to oversight. They have made it clear to leave no stone unturned and to go hard. And I believe that we, as Republicans, will go very hard against this administration come January when we are finally in an oversight role.
Allen: Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas. Congressman, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate you joining us.
Gooden: Thank you. And I look forward to speaking to you again, and have a great week.
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