Behind closed doors, progressives fighting ‘Big Tech’ work with anti-trans group

Apr 14, 22
Behind closed doors, progressives fighting ‘Big Tech’ work with anti-trans group

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The American Principles Project wants to break up big tech companies, but it’s also fighting to curb transgender rights.

Demonstrators gather on the steps to the Texas State Capitol to speak against transgender related legislation bills.

So progressives have been coordinating with APP on strategy and messaging. Jon Schweppe, APP’s director of policy and government affairs, attends a semi-regular private meeting in which progressive and Republican activists discuss the status of antitrust legislation in Congress. Meeting attendees have included other Republican antitrust advocates and left-leaning groups like Demand Progress and AELP. Conservative groups that support antitrust reform, including the Internet Accountability Project, did not return a request for comment.

“There have been some left groups that we’ve partnered with, mostly in terms of sharing intelligence and talking about bill text,” Schweppe said in an interview. “I don’t have great intel by myself on what’s happening on the Democratic side and a lot of these left groups don’t have great intel on the right side. So we share information.” Schweppe declined to name the groups.

Schweppe himself has said there is a “major overlap” between trans people and “furries,” a name for people who dress up as animals. He has advocated for conversion therapy, a term for attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, which is opposed by mainstream scientific groups and banned in some states as a form of abuse. APP is opposed to the Equality Act, which would amend civil rights law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It lobbied against marriage equality and has pivoted to advocating against trans rights in recent years.

But those stances haven’t deterred many progressive advocates from working with the group. One progressive antitrust advocate, who requested anonymity to discuss the dynamic candidly, said that given they have the same goal as APP on this issue, “there’s no reason to be oppositional to them out of spite.”

Another Democratic strategist who works on antitrust issues said the Democrats need support from populist Republicans to push bills across the finish line, so “intel sharing across a variety of groups of varying ideologies is vital.”

Not everyone in the progressive antitrust world is willing to make the compromise.

“It doesn’t make sense to work with someone that doesn’t share our values and doesn’t share our goal,” said Jeremie Greer, co-founder and executive director of economic rights group Liberation in a Generation. “I don’t think we’re fighting for the same thing.” Greer argued that the push for antitrust reform is essentially about increasing equality and strengthening democracy — and a group fighting against LGBTQ and minority rights is fundamentally opposed to that work.

Even if they share information behind closed doors, APP and progressive antitrust groups don’t often promote each other publicly. APP mainly leads letters and campaigns geared towards the GOP while left-leaning groups target Democrats. That’s partially because some progressives don’t want to give the group a bigger platform — and also it’s just a matter of marketing. “In terms of official partnerships, it doesn’t make sense for either of us,” Schweppe said. “If APP partnered with a left group and sent a letter to Democrats, the Democrats in the Senate would be like, ‘Huh?’”

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