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Conservatives slam big tech at CPAC while touting a ‘parallel economy’

ORLANDO, Fla. — The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) began Thursday just after Russia initiated attacks on Ukraine, but many Republican leaders took the stage in Orlando to talk about something else: Big Tech.

As Russian missiles bombarded the European country, Republican senators, a former Trump adviser and a sitting governor all opined on major social media companies — which they say are politically censoring them — and celebrated the prospect of what some called a “parallel economy” that’s beginning to take shape in the form of new social media platforms, such as former President Donald Trump’s Truth Social.

The focus on Big Tech has served as a major rallying point for Republicans as they enter a crucial midterm election season, harnessing pent-up frustration from a steady drumbeat of suspensions of conservative influencers and commentators from major tech platforms, including Trump’s 2021 suspensions from both Twitter and Facebook.

Conservatives didn’t mince words when it came to discussing their feelings about major tech companies.

After condemning GoFundMe’s decision to ban donations to the Canadian Freedom-Convoy, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, encouraged Republicans to “break Big Tech up into a million little pieces,” as part of a larger polemic against monopolies and big business.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told audience members that “Big Tech is now the number one institution for censorship in this country.”

Former Trump adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is also Donald Trump Jr.’s partner, compared social media moderation to Chinese censorship.

“What’s the difference between being punished in China for having the wrong opinions and Big Tech companies silencing you for daring to have conservative beliefs?” she said.

For Guilfoyle and some other attendees, Trump’s ban from Facebook and Twitter marked an inflection point.

“Every major social media platform banned President Trump last year. If the sitting president at the time can be banned on social media, no one is safe,” Guilfoyle said.