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Fear or Loathing? What lies ahead for Silicon Valley under Biden

Photo: twitter.com/JoeBiden

Photo: twitter.com/JoeBiden

The arrival of a new person in the White House is almost always an expectation of change. The beginning of 2021 will not be an exception, when the new US President Joe Biden will take office.

The tech business representatives who support the Democrats got "their" president. But it is difficult to expect that Joe Biden will become just a "unique opportunity" for the tech business.

Too many controversial issues related to the IT business activities that he will have to resolve in the next four years.

Although the new Head of the White House is more moderate in his statements about the tech market, some of Donald Trump's ideas aimed at curbing the enormous power that has turned out to be concentrated in the hands of tech giants are not alien to him.

Therefore, it is very problematic today to give an unambiguous answer to what the governance of Joe Biden will become for the techno-sector—a crisis or an opportunity.


Democrats and Silicon Valley

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The future impact of tech business on the Biden administration analysis should start with the fact that his vice president Kamala Harris has a close and long-standing relationship with the tech market.

QuoteEric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, may lead the White House's new technology team.

Even during her first election campaigns, Silicon Valley businessmen including Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Jony Ive, former Chief Design Officer of Apple donated money.

And Steve Jobs' widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, even lent her house for a Harris campaign fundraiser event back in 2013.

This summer, Lauren Jobs donated more than $610,000 to Joe Biden's campaign, along with other wealthy people from the tech business (founders of Dropbox, Netscape, Salesforce, GitHub).


Personnel matters

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Appointing people to the new administration form the tech business could be the first hints of how the president-elect will regulate the tech industry.

Both lobbyists and experts are analyzing names that could be nominated for serious positions in the new president's administration.

Although Joe Biden has yet to take office, and such rumors about tech businessmen in power are nothing more than just talk, there is already some controversy surrounding future appointments.

Reports have surfaced that Eric Schmidt, a former Google CEO and technology sector advocate, may lead a new White House technology team.

These rumors sparked a backlash and led to a request to withdraw the appointment.

This open letter mentions the risks not only of Eric Schmidt appointment, but in general the possible problems related to the technology sector influence on politics.

QuoteIt also states that this will alienate voters "who want to rein in the economic might of large corporations."

Но не только Эрик Шмидт может претендовать на серьезный государственный пост. Среди других известных в Кремниевой долине людей обсуждается кандидатура Мег Уитмен (Meg Whitman), бывшей руководительницы eBay, Hewlett-Packard и Quibi и даже бывшего кандидата в президенты, технологического утописта Эндрю Янга (Andrew Yan).


Guess the Politics

The importance of these appointments will make it clear what policy Joe Biden intends to pursue towards the technological sector.

On the one hand, during his election campaign, he was not as categorical as Donald Trump, whose confrontation with social platforms continues, as The Page had previously written, even after losing the election race.

On the other hand, Joe Biden openly called Mark Zuckerberg a "real problem" and did not hide his urge to repeal the notorious article 230 that regulates the social networks liability for user generated content.

However, Joe Biden's rhetoric did not contain any serious statements about BigTech even after the October report of the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust. It said about too much power that these companies have and voiced a proposal to divide them.


Technological vulnerabilities

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Today, technological policy can no longer be considered separate from general policy and state government.

QuoteBiden will have to resolve the issue of relations with China as a whole.

Biden will need to tackle numerous so-called technology policy issues, and these issues include not only the regulation of social media and American tech giants.

The American president will have to resolve the issue in relations with China as a whole. In particular, about how the social network TikTok will work in the United States, the deadline for blocking it in the country has already come, but it was postponed due to ongoing negotiations on purchasing this company’s part.

The founder of Terminal 42 and author of the BloGnot channel, Sergey Petrenko, believes that despite the importance of the technological sector in the economy the new president does not have to face any acute problems that need to be addressed as the problems of "top priority".

There are several acute, but tactical, so to speak, tasks—the conflict with WeChat and TikTok, sanctions against Huawei—but this is part of the relationship with China. And Biden has the richest experience in this, and, most likely, acute manifestations will be extinguished until the global solution will be found.

Sergey Petrenko

Sergey Petrenko

Founder and CEO of Terminal 42, author of BloGnot channel

There is, of course, a large layer of problems concerning social networks—the notorious Section 230 and so on, the expert admits in the comment to The Page:

Quote"But just because Trump really needed to solve this problem before the elections, there is no need for Biden to rush in solving something after winning."

Moreover, his own party, the Democrats, also wants to revise the legislation in this regard, and this is indeed a legislative issue rather than a task for the president.

This means that Biden is unlikely to make drastic decisions in the field of the technology sector right away. But in the time horizon of the year, it would be desirable that the new president finds some way to reconcile the interests of the United States and China, Petrenko noted. And this must be done without prejudice to national security and possible harm from the technological and trade relations rupture.

Here are a few more important technological issues that the new White House administration will address.


Privacy and privacy legislation

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Regulation of the personal data use will be one of the challenges of Joe Biden's technology policy.

Biden stated that, in his opinion, the United States should create privacy laws close to those used in the European Union.

In the same interview, the future Head of the White House expressed his readiness to bring Mark Zuckerberg or Facebook to civil liability, referring to the recent appearance of commercials in which Biden was accused of blackmailing Ukrainian officials.

As recently as last year, there were rumors that Congress might pass data privacy federal law.

This did not happen, but California passed its own privacy law—California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

QuoteBiden is unlikely to make drastic decisions in the technology sector right away.

The latter, given the impact of California on the economy in general and the technology sector in particular, may become a de facto national standard.

This law general approach to user data privacy is very similar to that of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Joe Biden has the opportunity to become the president under whom the US has streamlined the use of user data.


Content moderation and disinformation on the network

Although social platforms have emerged with honor from the challenge called "Elections 2020", at least for now, especially when compared with the elections 2016, the problem of the fake news spread is still there.

At the same time, the world learned about the scale of manipulation and spread of fakes regarding the past elections some time after the vote.

In addition to resolving the issue of the notorious Section 230, the Biden administration is faced with the task of solving the fakes issue, especially since viral disinformation will still be there, including the one promoted by officials.


Visas and taxes

Under the Trump administration, income tax for large companies was reduced, in addition, technology corporations actively used European tax breaks, in particular, the Irish "tax haven". During his campaign, Biden proposed raising the corporate tax rate.

Another important problem during the Trump presidency was the restriction on the labor immigrants entry including restrictions on the H1 work visas issuance.

Biden, in turn, pledged to waive migration restrictions for specialists with a PhD in STEM fields.


Silicon Valley hopes

Technology is not a priority for Joe Biden, and there is little mention of it on his polling site BuildBackBetter.com, notes in his article Owen Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle business editor.

This might appeal to many in Silicon Valley, especially to those who yearn for the old days when technology supposedly existed outside of politics.

Owen Thomas

Owen Thomas

San Francisco Chronicle business editor

Biden’s election team’s complaints against Facebook are related to that the growing number of fakes prevents people from knowing the truth, Megan Clasen, Biden’s campaign senior media advisor, explained in a comment to Politico.

They allow fake news to proliferate and people see fakes but cannot get the truthful information.

Megan Klasen

Megan Klasen

Biden's campaign senior media advisor

At the same time, the fact of political friendship between the new US president and former British politician Nick Clegg can bring Facebook new opportunities, the newspaper writes.

By a lucky coincidence for the company, he is now the Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook. In an interview with the BBC, he spoke extremely positively about Biden.

He's your classic warm, responsible politician, full of friendliness but still capable of changing gears when he needs to.

Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg

Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook

However, it's worth remembering that Democrats have been angry on Facebook since 2016, and they are unlikely to easily forget the manipulations that once led to Donald Trump's victory.