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The election’s impact on big tech, part I

The new administration and big tech are likely to be more adversarial.

The election’s outcome on Tuesday upturned expectations, certainly among Democrats, even most Republicans. Of course, there’s no way to know what new tech industry laws and regulations will be created by President Trump, the Republican Congress and new regulatory agency leadership.

However, we know the following—

  • Silicon Valley CEOs and major stakeholders were solidly behind Clinton, with the exception of Peter Thiel and a few others. Tech progressives failed to recognize the social and economic disquiet of the country, especially in the so-called Rust Belt. They contributed to the Democrats but were complacent about the election. Few of them got directly involved.
  • Ironically, California-based social media giants like Facebook and Twitter helped fuel the discontent—by speeding journalism’s decline with factual inaccuracy and the degraded social discourse we experience on now fragmented news sites.
  • Neither Trump nor most of the people who voted for him have benefitted from the tech boom because it hasn’t generated significant jobs in the American heartland.
  • Obama helped accommodate Silicon Valley’s agenda because he firmly believed it was the catalyst for 21st century economic and social progress. Trump, by contrast, isn’t a fan. Interestingly, he shouts out his Twitter comments to one of his aides, not posting them himself.
  • Much more significant—During his campaign, Trump promised that he would take antitrust action against Amazon and pressure Apple to manufacture its product in the U.S. Furthermore, he believes that the big West Coast tech company stakeholders constitute part of the ‘global elite’ that he so frequently railed against.
  • On data security issues, Trump seems aligned with those who want the government to have a ‘back door’ to all devices so that the phones of suspected terrorists can be unlocked. But would it or could it be stopped there?
  • Trump doesn’t support net neutrality—and is especially opposed to the idea of giving equal time to all sides of an issue. If he appoints anti-regulatory crusader Jeffrey Eisenach, it will be a sure signal that net neutrality’s days may be numbered.
  • Finally, on immigration—Tech has been responsible for a significant portion of the brain drain from foreign countries, so is opposed to Trump’s exclusionary position on the issue.

In my next installment, I’ll discuss the direction the new administration may take on cybersecurity and privacy.

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