Op-ed: Conservatives, it’s time to even the electoral technology playing field

The old aphorism, “good for the goose, good for the gander,” is yet another casualty of America’s new woke sensibilities.

Along with the concepts of objective truth and fairness, equal…

The old aphorism, “good for the goose, good for the gander,” is yet another casualty of America’s new woke sensibilities.

Along with the concepts of objective truth and fairness, equal treatment under law and policy has become a largely voluntary venture on the part of government, despite being a cornerstone of our republic.

Case in point: the recent uproar over a Wisconsin pro-life group using common cell phone technology to identify people in proximity to abortion clinics in order to send them targeted advertisements offering abortion alternatives.

Known as “geofencing,” the technique isolates cell phone data based on location, assuming the cell phone user has granted permission for their precise location to be seen. Location data is then gathered and sold to various advertisers to provide a more targeted ad experience, such as lumber ads at the home improvement store, or grocery deals at the neighborhood supermarket. 

The idea, frankly, is brilliant for the pro-life movement. That today’s tech could be turned to such a life affirming purpose indeed gives hope to those of us desperately grasping for good news in our beleaguered society. Sadly, but also predictably, the pro-abortion banshees have erupted in full-throated howl. 

Everyone from elected officials to social media influencers demanded such an “intrusive invasion of privacy” be curtailed, if not by law, then by regulation. The pro-life effort, sponsored by Veritas Society, used standard technology that is non-proprietary, easily acquired without any need for licensing, and entirely legal, at least according to a federal judge who dismissed a case brought by federal regulators against an information broker who sold this sort of data. 

When a targeted user clicked on one of the pro-life ads, they would be taken to a Veritas Society website that gave them two options: “I want to undo the abortion pill” or “I am thinking about the abortion pill.” Clicking on any option would redirect the user to pro-life resources and assistance. The site would track users who answered the original ad and target new ads to them as they browsed the web, precisely the way social media giants do. 

Unable to assail the effort in any meaningful way, a spokesperson from Planned Parenthood derided the advertisements as “disinformation,” but failed to elaborate on the charge with any specifics. 

Perhaps recognizing the potential for a technological fait accompli, the pro-abortion lobby has sought to shift the argument from the legally and ethically unobjectionable specifics of the Wisconsin case to a larger question of a right to privacy, tying the argument to the Dobbs decision, the Supreme Court’s overturning or Roe v. Wade

By reframing the debate, pro-abortionists hope to sidestep the unnerving truth: the pro-life side is gaining ground on the technological landscape, threatening to upend the left’s digital hegemony. If they can recast this battle as an extension of the Dobbs decision, they can rely on automatic, reflexive support from their base. 

But here’s where the left again finds itself wading through a thickening fog of cognitive dissonance. By emphasizing the “right to privacy” angle, their argument is reduced to claiming a sort of “selective right to privacy” that only applies to people seeking to kill their children in utero. 

Some of the critics claim the abortion-related geo-data could be misused or publicized to make a legal case against abortion seekers and providers based on new state laws against abortion. They also hint such information might compromise the safety of those involved as they may become targets of nonexistent unhinged right-wing zealots. 

However, some pro-abortion extremists – Jane’s Revenge and Antifa, for example – are suspected by law enforcement of utilizing the same technology to identify pro-life demonstrations for disruption, and even violence against anti-abortion organizations and individuals. 

The political right in the United States has been perennially late to the technology party. Some of this is due to the politically left-leaning nature of Silicon Valley, but the conservative tendency to ask for permission before acting, rather than forgiveness after, has too often translated to our side operating on floppy discs and cassette tapes while our opponents cruise along with fiber optics and AI, blazing new trails in unethical manipulation of information. 

Biased “fact checkers,” shadow-banning of conservative voices on social media, and purposeful shielding of one presidential candidate from the repercussions of his son’s criminal behavior are all activities forbidden, but nonetheless happened. 

As early as the 2008 election cycle, Democrats have exploited information technology to great advantage, capably offsetting Republican gains in electoral support with highly effective get-out-the-vote campaigns driven by tech.  

If Republicans utilized available tech to the extent Democrats do, the amount of fraud and misdoing needed to counter our resurgence would be as obvious as “a dinosaur’s tracks through a field of peanut butter,” as data scientist Jay Valentine would say. 

Perhaps frightened by the disastrous outcome of their previous foray into electoral data mining – the famous Cambridge Analytica affair – Republicans are seemingly content with letting their opponents make the rules. Nothing done during that episode differed appreciably from the day-to-day operations of the Democratic Party’s data mining efforts.  

Only the Republican’s reflexive hand-over-mouth gasping horror at having been accused of impropriety set them apart from their counterparts on the left, who were doing the same things, and much more, without a second thought. 

The enterprising use of widely available technology by the Wisconsin pro-lifers is nothing to be ashamed of, but rather a thing to be celebrated and protected from the predatory election-swaying behavior of left-leaning government agencies. 

The Federal Trade Commission, the agency that brought the now-dismissed suit mentioned earlier, is pursuing an entirely one-sided investigation into the use of cell phone data, the strategy of geofencing, and the utilization of psycho-graphical data profiles by conservatives.  

Conservatives can’t afford to play on a slanted field any longer. If we are to be denied the use of this tech, then we cannot permit a double standard to allow our opponents to exploit it. 

After all, what’s good for the goose must be good for the gander.