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Arizona GOP Senate Candidates Battle Over Big Tech Bona Fides

Mark Brnovich says Blake Masters lacks experience 'on the front lines against these tech companies'

Arizona attorney general Mark Brnovich (R.) / Twitter
• September 8, 2021 5:25 pm

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Arizona Senate candidate Mark Brnovich (R.) has sharp words for people who call for the breakup of big tech companies without taking action.

"It’s easy to talk the talk, but what have you actually done?" Brnovich said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon. Unlike his opponents, the Arizona attorney general said he has been "on the front lines against these tech companies," and touted his record suing Facebook to prove it.

Brnovich’s comments are likely directed at tech millionaire Blake Masters, a Peter Thiel acolyte and big tech critic who called for the breakup of Facebook in an interview with the Free Beacon. Masters has not held political office but has emphasized his background in the tech industry gives him a leg up in battling woke corporate power.

Masters and Brnovich are two of five Republicans battling in a Senate primary that has become a lightning rod for conservative big tech debates. The winner will take on Democrat Mark Kelly in the general election. Both Masters and Brnovich may have geared up for a campaign defined by big tech, as Arizona's recent attempts to regulate Apple have made the state a lightning rod for conservative debates on the issue. But with all eyes on Afghanistan, it’s likely the candidates may not be able to control which issues define their campaigns.

Brnovich criticized the Biden administration’s botched Afghanistan withdrawal, saying it sends the message "that it may be bad to be an enemy of the U.S. in the Middle East, but it’s worse to be an ally." He expressed support for Israel and roundly condemned the Iran nuclear deal.

Brnovich also called China "the greatest threat this country is facing" and dismissed tech companies that say increased regulation would give Chinese companies a competitive edge. "I don’t believe a word," Brnovich said, noting that Amazon has "bent over backwards for China" and "let them censor the internet."

While he won’t go so far as to call for breaking up tech companies, Brnovich has highlighted his extensive legal battles with big tech.

He brought a suit against Google in 2020, arguing that the company was misleading users about how it tracked their location. The suit alleged that even after users turned off their location sharing, Google still sold their location data to third parties. He cited conversations between Google employees who acknowledged the data collection.

Rather than break up big tech, Brnovich wants to take legislative steps to reduce their power. He expressed particular concern with Section 230, a federal law that protects tech companies from being sued over content they host. He is open to laws that would classify social media companies as "common carriers," similar to cell service providers. Such a reform would require platforms to carry all legal speech, regardless of politics.

For Brnovich, the fight against big tech is personal. His mother fled communism in Yugoslavia, an experience he said shapes his views. "When any entity has all that kind of information, they can manipulate you, control you, they can nudge you in certain directions with the feeds and stories you get."