What Will Biden’s Relationship With Tech Companies Bring?
Technology companies have grown in power by leaps and bounds in recent years. The crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend and the tech industry has only wealthened and gathered new data from millions of users. Moreover, social media platforms have been used with increasing sophistication to interfere in elections and misinform the public.
In recent months, Democratic leaders in the US have stepped up the demands they have been pushing for years to create new laws to reduce Silicon Valley's corporate footprint, particularly with the Internet Regulation Law. This law, which protects companies regarding the content published by users, will turn 25 years old this year. This means it was created many years before platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were founded in 2004 and 2006.
Back in June, the Biden campaign site published an open letter to Facebook where they called on Mark Zuckerberg’s social network to stop former President Donald Trump from publishing “wild claims.” “We call on Facebook to proactively stem the tide of false information by no longer amplifying untrustworthy content and promptly fact-checking election-related material that goes viral,” the letter states. “Anything less will render Facebook a tool of misinformation that corrodes our democracy”.
Then, on Jan. 6, seven months later, rioters stormed into the US Capitol. Disturbances were led by supporters of Trump who had recently attended a march near the White House in which he encouraged them to fight in protest of the election result and “walk down to the Capitol.” “We are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women," Trump added. “We are probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you will never take back our country with weakness.”
Only two days later, Twitter permanently suspended @realDonaldTrump's account on the grounds of “additional violations to the Twitter Rules,” the company said in a blog post. Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey, however, questioned in a series of tweets last week the power of social media companies and Twitter's failure to promote a healthy conversation. “Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation. They divide us and set a precedent I feel is dangerous,” Dorsey noted. “A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same,” he added.
Facebook took the same path and banned Trump’s account to prevent him from inciting violence and undermining the democratic process. “The risks of allowing the president to continue using our service during this period are simply too great,” the social media giant said in a blog post.
This event is likely to set a much harder precedent for the relationship between the White House and Silicon Valley. Biden’s approach to technology, according to Reuters, will focus on decreasing the immunity online platforms receive from content posted by users, as well as deep analysis on splitting up companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon. Senator Elizabeth Warren has so far led this task.
As the pandemic spread around the world, people relied on technology more than ever before. This has put gig workers, who depend on technology platforms for their work, at the center of Biden’s policies, as well. “This epidemic of misclassification (employees as independent contractors) is possible because of ambiguous legal tests that give too much discretion to employers, too little protection to workers and too little direction to government agencies and courts,” said the Biden campaign site.