Today, 40 reproductive rights, racial justice, and privacy advocacy groups released a letter calling on the Senate to immediately confirm Gigi Sohn to the fifth seat on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the letter the groups say, “the FCC has a role to play protecting reproductive rights, but they can’t until Gigi Sohn is confirmed.”
The letter comes on the heels of right-wing outlets, like Breitbart, maliciously attacking Sohn’s sexuality and spreading baseless accusations like Sohn ‘opposing’ efforts to combat sexual trafficking. These attacks draw on dangerous homophobic falsehoods that portray LGBTQ+ people as predators and a threat to society.
Fed up with Senate Democrats’ inaction and silence, the organizations have released this letter to declare their support for Sohn. The letter highlights concerns that a deadlocked FCC is unable to “protect the safety and rights of people seeking, providing, and facilitating abortion care.”
“Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, unregulated data collection has reached a point of crisis. Our country’s lack of constitutional privacy protections now enables the mass-scale tracking and criminalization of those seeking abortion healthcare. Location data from cell phones can be used as evidence to prosecute those who travel out of state to get an abortion,” the letter reads. “This mass surveillance dragnet is not only harmful to the public at large and our democracy—it puts the lives of abortion patients and providers in danger. The FCC has clear authority over restricting these abusive data collection practices. But with Sohn still waiting to break the current deadlock, it cannot act.”
The letter goes on to exemplify the surveillance of people seeking abortions, “in 2016 an advertising company working with anti-abortion groups used “mobile geo-fencing” to pinpoint the location of women sitting in a Planned Parenthood waiting room, and sent them anti-choice ads in an attempt to dissuade them from getting an abortion.” Such tactics will become more commonplace now that states like Texas and Oklahoma have deputized people to surveil their loved ones and neighbors through so-called “vigilante” laws.
Abortion surveillance isn’t the only concern highlighted. The letter also mentions that “civil rights groups in particular have been warning the government for years that the blanket surveillance hidden in our everyday devices poses a substantial threat to privacy rights, personal safety, and the lives of Black and brown people.”
The groups end the letter by saying, “the Senate must take action to confirm Sohn and in doing so, it will be signaling that clear parameters are needed to protect consumers from being involuntarily recorded or tracked. Continued failure to appoint Sohn will result in unjust arrests and the proliferation of a surveillance state that jeopardizes the lives of many thousands of people.”
The letter is signed by Fight for the Future, Accountable Tech, Advocacy for Principled Action in Government, Aspiration, California LGBT Arts Alliance, Defending Rights & Dissent, Digital Defense Fund, Digital Equity Research Center, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), FREE! Families Rally for Emancipation and Empowerment, GLAAD, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, JusticeLA Coalition, Kairos Action, Lucy Parsons Lab, Media Alliance, MediaJustice, MPower Change Action Fund, Muslim Advocates, Muslim Counterpublics Lab, National Center for Transgender Equality, Open Markets Institute, OpenMedia, Privacy Right Clearinghouse, Pro-Choice North Carolina, Pro-Choice Washington, Progressive Technology Project, Public Citizen, Reframe Health and Justice, Restore The Fourth, RootsAction.org, Secure Justice, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, Tech for Good Asia, The Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center, The Tech Oversight Project, UCLA Center on Race & Digital Justice, UltraViolet Action, WA People’s Privacy, and Women’s March. Click here to read the full letter.
Digital rights group Fight for the Future, who led massive online protests opposing the repeal of net neutrality and demanding oversight of telecom monopolies, issued the following statement, please attribute to the Director of Fight for the Future, Evan Greer (she/her):
“At some point, Democratic leadership has to decide where they stand on human rights. If they truly believe in the equality of all humans, then they won’t standby and remain silent while Gigi Sohn is attacked because she happens to be gay. And if they believe in protecting the privacy and rights of those seeking abortions and those administering abortion care, then they should empower every federal agency to act within its authority to protect these rights. That includes confirming Sohn to the FCC.
This telecom-backed smear campaign wouldn’t be happening if Sohn didn’t have a track record of listening to impacted people, defending privacy rights, and ensuring everyone had equal access to fundamental infrastructure like broadband. With Sohn, a fully staffed FCC can fast-track new privacy protections that would protect everyone including those seeking abortions and that’s what her opposition is afraid of.
In the last election, voters made it clear where they stand, their broad support for abortion rights foiled the “red wave” predicted by pollsters and pundits. Democrats can’t afford to lose the support of their base or key reproductive rights and civil rights groups—they must confirm Sohn.”