Who does not agree with a statement like this? It certainly tugs at the heartstrings, but what we often don’t hear is how many lives are lost or compromised due to what was deemed as a solution.
Last year the Teen Mental Health House Ad Hoc Committee was formed at the Arizona Legislature with this stated purpose:
The Ad Hoc Committee on Teen Mental Health, which will consist of members of the House of Representatives and of the community, is intended to research and review information regarding how substance abuse, depression and mental illness, bullying and social media, and other factors may affect mental health in youth and potential teen suicide. The committee shall work to identify potential solutions and make recommendations to public and private agencies with the goal of addressing teen mental health issues and improving access to mental health care.
Most of the time when governments choose committee members, it is so a pre-determined goal will be achieved. What the public sector continually lacks is the diligence to take a deep dive into issues and critically think about ramifications. Officeholders prefer politically expedient solutions, while education contractors benefit financially via lobbyists who peddle their wares.
The issues surrounding Arizona HB2635 are real and scary, whether one supports the bill or not. Representative Travis Grantham (R-LD14) was the Vice Chair of the Teen Mental Health Committee, and the personal stories he heard clearly moved him. He sponsored HB2635 which would allow local governing boards to provide a mental health app for teens to have on their phones simply for access to a suicide prevention line.
But high schools and colleges are already required by Arizona law to print a suicide hotline number on student IDs. While an app for quick access to a suicide hotline sounds lifesaving, there are long-term risks involved for a product like this that lacks proven results. According to a study conducted by Internet Safety Labs and published December 13, 2022, even apps customized for school districts are less safe compared to generic apps—as 96% of the apps recommended by school districts share personal information with third parties.
We know our phones are tracking and listening to us. Apps can be developed to pick up on keywords which may relate to a stressful situation or even just an argument a teen has with his or her parents. Apps are also programmed to pick up certain emojis. Schools could then be notified and intervene based on a narrative which has nothing to do with suicide. Meanwhile, the information the app gathered never goes away. Mental health information gleaned from an app may be a problem later in life when the child is applying for jobs or certain academic programs.
In addition, according to study by Internet Safety Labs, 61% of custom apps send information to Google, while 81% access location information. These apps synchronize with the student’s Chromebooks and other devices. This is especially unnerving in Arizona, which is a leading state for sex trafficking. On top of that, several Arizona school districts recognize that social media is contributing to youth mental health problems, and one is even suing Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. Why would our legislature support an app which leads students to these platforms?
Representative Grantham has been looking at a similar mental health app used in Utah. The idea started as a pilot program, collected data, and through the data it was deemed necessary to expand the program. Now that the data is documented, the proponents call it “evidence-based.”
Due to pushback, Representative Grantham proposed adding an amendment to provide “guardrails” for the mental health app. Will guardrails tell us who is on the other end of a suicide hotline? Like former Superintendent Kathy Hoffman’s QChat, parents are circumvented while minors are talking with strangers their parents know nothing about.
One of the mental health apps used in Utah is Bark, which has an LGBTQIA+ page. Bark also links students to the Trevor Project, which steers children to gender ideology. At the same time, the child’s data is recorded forever. That is concerning, especially since Bark advertises the CDC as one of its partners. Exactly what is the government doing with the information collected while the minor is tracked?
Children are suffering from a lack of personal interactions with parents, teachers, and friends. Sending them to an app—especially sinister ones like this—only exacerbates the problem. The Arizona Legislature should vote no on HB2635. Gathering data on children is an outright assault on them.
Peggy McClain is a concerned citizen who advocates for accountability in Arizona’s schools. You can follower her on Twitter here.
Maricopa County Supervisor Jack Sellers capped off his year-end newsletter by celebrating a “Defender of Democracy” award from a Big Tech-funded, election-influencing nonprofit.
Sellers received the award in July alongside Elections Director Scott Jarrett and outgoing Secretary of State/governor-elect Katie Hobbs’ assistant secretary of state-turned-chief of staff, Allie Bones. The Center for Election Innovation & Research (CEIR) issued the awards. CEIR received $69.5 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, in August 2020 through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative — three months before the contentious presidential election.
Ultimately, CEIR gave nearly all of those funds — over $64.2 million — to state and local government officials to encourage mail voting and enhance voter information. Arizona received nearly $4.8 million. That was on top of other Big Tech monies that Arizona’s election officials received. As AZ Free News reported last March, the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) issued $5 million to the state. $3 million went to Maricopa County specifically.
The founder and executive director of CEIR is former DOJ lawyer David Becker. He disputed that CEIR’s funds swayed the 2020 election. CEIR reported that 85 percent of the funds were used for paid media, while 11 percent were for direct mail and 4 percent were for communications activities.
Further details about what the media entailed weren’t provided. The general report bears some similarities to CTCL’s vagueness concerning the expenditures of its funds.
Arizona was one of 23 states to receive CEIR grants. The others were Connecticut, $2.1 million; Florida, $287,000; Georgia, $5.6 million; Illinois, $2.7 million; Iowa, $1 million; Kentucky, $1.6 million; Maryland, $575,000; Massachusetts, $200,000; Michigan, $12 million; Minnesota, $1.5 million; Missouri, $1.1 million; New Jersey, $6.1 million; New Mexico, $768,000; New York, $5 million; North Carolina, $1.1 million; Ohio, $1.1 million; Pennsylvania, $13.2 million; Rhode Island, $632,000; South Carolina, $1 million; Vermont, $312,000; and Washington, $405,000.
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative hasn’t publicly announced any funds it gave, if any, for this recent election.
While serving in the Civil Rights Division Voting Section in the early 2000s, Becker enforced the Voting Rights Act. The DOJ acting head at the time, Brad Schlozman, told reporters in 2020 that Becker should’ve been disbarred for unethical behavior. Schlozman described Becker as a “hard-core leftist” who “couldn’t stand conservatives.” Becker didn’t dispute the claims against him for unethical behavior, but noted that they were dismissed.
Other election officials to receive CEIR’s award included election officials from Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. Other recipients of the award included lawyers from the Election Official Legal Defense Network, two former officials with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and two retired federal judges.
Two journalists also received the award: Reuters reporters Linda So and Jason Szep, for a series titled “Campaign of Fear: The Trump world’s assault on U.S. election workers.”
The largest newspaper in Arizona hired two new reporters with the help of a group funded by some of the country’s most powerful Big Tech corporations and liberal companies.
The new Arizona Republic reporters came from Report for America, a program launched by the Big Tech and liberal-funded GroundTruth Project to place their hand-selected journalists in newsrooms across the world. The not-for-profit receives millions from the likes of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and the Ford Foundation for its mission to “restore journalism.”
The program offers a major financial incentive for news outlets to take on its reporters. Report for America pays 50 percent of their reporter’s salary the first year with a cap of $25,000 for reporters with less than eight years experience or $30,000 for reporters with eight or more years of experience, then 33 percent of the salary the second year and 20 percent the third year with no cap.
Outlets don’t even have to worry about paying for the entire remainder of those reporters’ salaries. The program pledged to help fundraise half or more of the remainder of each salary. High turnover wouldn’t be an issue, either — the program requires reporters to commit to working at least two years in the newsroom to which they are assigned.
News outlets must relinquish some of their freedom when it comes to hiring the program’s reporters, however. Outlets don’t get to choose from all of the program’s reporters. Report for America hand-selects three to five candidates from which the outlets may choose.
The owner of the Arizona Republic, the mass media holding company Gannett, has given thousands to the program: an undisclosed sum ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.
In addition to the Arizona Republic, Report for America journalists are working for Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting and Tucson Sentinel.
Report for America claimed that its reporters are committed to non-partisan, non-ideological local reporting. Over 200 news outlets across each of the 50 states house at least one of the over 300 Report for America journalists. Two-thirds of those reporters are women, and nearly half are “journalists of color” according to the program.
GroundTruth’s editorial partners include The Washington Post, Time, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Guardian, USA Today, PBS, NPR, NewsWeek, TeenVogue, CNN, Cosmopolitan, ABC News, and USA Today.
Recent IRS filings revealed that Arizona received nearly $5.17 million during the 2020 election from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), pumped with over $350 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to funnel into election offices nationwide. The Zuckerberg funds were intended to provide COVID-19 relief; in large part, they funded controversial election methods like ballot drop-boxes. The Capital Research Center (CRC) first announced the CTCL IRS filings.
The CTCL numbers concurred with AZ Free News reporting earlier this year on CRC data, which reported that CTCL spent just over $5 million in Arizona. In fact, the CRC estimate turned out to be slightly lower.
According to the IRS filings, CTCL’s biggest grant was Maricopa County at over $1.84 million. The runner-up grant amounted to over $950,400 awarded to Pima County. Several counties received slightly under or over half a million each: Navajo County received over $593,700, Apache County received nearly $589,700, Coconino County received over $524,500, and Pinal County received over $472,500.
Yuma County still received a six-figure grant: over $180,700. La Paz County was the odd man out with a $17,500 grant.
President Joe Biden won the following counties funded by CTCL grants: Maricopa (50.3 percent), Apache (66.2 percent), Coconino (60.9 percent), Pima (58.6 percent). Biden also won Santa Cruz (67.2 percent), which had no CTCL grants.
Pima County Supervisors Ally Miller and Steve Christy voted against certifying the 2020 election over the Zuckerberg grants, as Miller explained in an opinion piece published in the Arizona Daily Independent last month. The supervisors didn’t believe the grant money was helping to secure the election.
Of those counties he won, Biden flipped Maricopa from the 2016 election — which Hillary Clinton lost by over four points. He also earned about four percent more of the votes than Clinton in the counties they both won.
Biden lost the following counties funded by CTCL grants: Navajo (45.2 percent), Pinal (40.6 percent), and La Paz (30 percent). However, he lost by a smaller margin than Clinton did, gaining an average of two more points in both counties.
CRC’s reported grants varied slightly from those given in the filings: they reported learning of nearly $3 million to Maricopa County, over $806,000 to Pinal County, nearly $614,700 to Coconino County, and over $593,200 to Apache County. Their estimate of La Paz County’s grant was accurate. CRC didn’t have data on the grants awarded to Navajo, Yuma, or Pima counties.
AZ Free News reached out to Maricopa County about the grant total discrepancy. They didn’t respond by press time.
“We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”
Those were the words of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki last week, and they should send chills up and down your spine. It’s bad enough that we already have Big Tech playing speech police on a daily basis. Now, the federal government is flagging “problematic posts” FOR Facebook?!?
This is outrageous, and it’s incredibly dangerous.
The federal government is supposed to uphold the U.S. Constitution, not actively aid social media companies in censoring Americans.
But it appears this is only the beginning of their plan…