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Why liberals and big tech companies broke up

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Why liberals and big tech companies broke up

Postby smix » Wed Mar 20, 2019 4:07 pm

Why liberals and big tech companies broke up
Politico

URL: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/03/ ... ey-1229345
Category: Politics
Published: March 17, 2019

Description: The attacks and skepticism that prominent Democrats are directing to Silicon Valley represent a major cultural change in the party.
Elizabeth Warren's latest fight with Facebook over allegations of censorship is the latest piece of evidence that Democrats running for president see big tech companies as enemies of the progressive agenda, rather than the allies they once were. Warren’s complaint last week that the social media giant "has too much power" might have been a shock coming from a prominent Democrat just a few years ago, when Barack Obama’s public appearances with CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey were typical for a party seeking to boost its appeal to tech-savvy young voters. But this year’s Democratic presidential field is sounding a much different message — from Bernie Sanders’ complaints about Amazon’s wages and tax avoidance to Amy Klobuchar’s pledge to enact data privacy laws. The hard turn against the technology industry from prominent Democrats represents a major cultural change in the party — and a real threat to Silicon Valley’s political influence with liberals who may share tech workers' political sensibilities but are diverging from the industry on fundamental issues about privacy, business practices and taxes. For the industry, the danger is that the next president could espouse policies harmful to tech’s bottom line, from pushing for tougher antitrust action to restricting government contracts for companies unwilling to change their ways. Klobuchar sounded the theme at the very start of her campaign, during the announcement speech in February where she stood in blowing snow in Minneapolis. “For too long the big tech companies have been telling you ‘Don’t worry! We’ve got your back!’ while your identities are being stolen and your data is mined,” the Minnesota senator said. Even Cory Booker, a Stanford grad with close ties to Silicon Valley, used a recent NPR interview to lump tech in with other powerful lobbies that need to be reined in. "We need to make sure that whether it's Silicon Valley or the pharma industry or the big ag, we need to hold people accountable for their actions," he said. Of the dozen or so prominent Democrats taking steps towards the White House, at least half have decried the power of the U.S. tech industry, talking on the campaign trail about greater antitrust enforcement, stronger privacy regulations and other moves to check Silicon Valley's power. Should a Democrat win the White House from President Donald Trump, the tech industry might find itself the target of serious efforts to tame what Pete Buttigieg — the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a long-shot White House hopeful — calls tech's "complete Wild West environment." The risks for the industry are real, even if any president has only limited ability to restrain the industry through executive action alone. The Oval Office would still be a perch for rallying allies on Capitol Hill, the way Obama did on health care and Trump has on taxes. A tech-skeptic president could also use the White House as a bully pulpit to prod regulators to impose fines and oppose corporate mergers. Warren has taken the hardest line of all, calling for the federal government to shrink and split up industry giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google. “To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies," she wrote in a blog post this month. The Massachusetts senator later singled out Facebook after POLITICO reported that the social media company had taken down Warren campaign ads calling for its breakup. Facebook soon restored the ads, but Warren said the episode only underscored the need for "a social media marketplace that isn't dominated by a single censor." Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz publicly took Warren’s side in that dispute — a rare occurrence that underscores the bipartisan populist appeal of the tech backlash. A Morning Consult/POLITICO poll earlier this month found that near-identical pluralities of Democrats and Republicans agreed with the statement, "Technology companies have too much power and the federal government should step in to regulate more." Still, the anti-tech posture is especially popular on the Democrats' left flank. "Just because a monopoly business happens to be online, that doesn’t mean it’s good," progressive firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Monday night, in response to the same POLITICO article on Warren and Facebook. Trump has taken his own shots at tech, accusing companies like Google and Twitter of being biased against conservatives and branding Amazon a "no-tax monopoly." But the tech industry has largely thrived under Trump’s policies, benefiting from his broad deregulatory bent and enjoying a bottom-line boon from tax code changes, such as a reduction of the corporate tax rate on holdings brought to the U.S. from overseas. In contrast, Democrats vying for their party's nomination insist they will push for real consequences for tech's perceived misdeeds. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii announced her own White House candidacy by calling for the need to “stand up against overreaching intel agencies and big tech companies who take away our civil liberties and freedoms in the name of national security and corporate greed.” Sanders, who declared his White House bid in mid-February, has railed against Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos over everything from the wages the company pays its workers to its low aggregate tax. While Trump has raised the latter issue in the context of veiled threats against Bezos' Washington Post, Sanders has inveighed directly against Amazon's tax minimization efforts. "I think most Americans would agree that it is a bit absurd in that you have in the case of Amazon a company owned by the wealthiest person in the world that made, I believe, 11 billion in profits last year and didn't pay a nickel in federal taxes," Sanders told POLITICO. "I don't think too many Americans think that makes sense." (An Amazon spokesperson told POLITICO, “Amazon pays all the taxes we are required to pay in the U.S. and every country where we operate.") Buttigieg told NPR early in his candidacy it's unacceptable to let tech companies like Facebook continue on unchecked when it comes to data privacy, calling it "one of the most important dimensions of our citizenship, of our life and society." One exception so far is former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, the latest Democratic contender to enter the race, who has largely stayed on the sidelines as tech criticism has grown more fiery and pointed. When O’Rourke made his unsuccessful bid last year for GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s Senate seat, his campaign site called for stronger antitrust regulations to take on monopolies and protect consumers. But O’Rourke didn’t call out tech companies by name, and he’s broadly seemed cozier with Silicon Valley than some of his fellow candidates. During his Senate run, O’Rourke was the nation's top recipient of individual campaign donations from staffers at a number of tech companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google parent Alphabet, Intel and IBM. He also spent more on Facebook ads than any other candidate for national office in the 2018 cycle. In his 2020 announcement speech Thursday, O’Rourke’s tech talk was limited to pushing to get broadband out to rural areas for use in farming and education — and, he joked, to give all Americans the ability to “go on Tinder to find that special date." Still, the willingness of so many Democrats to take on Silicon Valley is something of an about-face from Obama's enthusiastic embrace of the tech industry, as he oversaw an administration that worked closely with Google officials. And 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's operation tried to carefully lay groundwork for Silicon Valley support, including issuing a detailed tech and innovation agenda vetted by some in the tech industry. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was even widely reported to be on Clinton's shortlist to join her Cabinet as Treasury or Commerce secretary. The marked contrast Democrats with an eye on 2020 have struck against their party's once sunny view on tech is perhaps nowhere more evident than in a stop Zuckerberg made during a high-profile tour of the U.S. just two years ago. His coast-to-coast visits drove widespread speculation that Zuckerberg had his own designs on the Oval Office, though he always maintained he simply wanted to better understand the average Facebook user. Zuckerberg's odyssey included a surprise visit to South Bend, Ind., where he stopped by The Local Cup coffee shop and toured the former factory of iconic early carmaker Studebaker. His host? The town's mayor and an old friend of Zuckerberg's from Harvard, Pete Buttigieg.
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Democrats have a new 2020 boogeyman: Big tech

Postby smix » Wed Mar 20, 2019 4:17 pm

Democrats have a new 2020 boogeyman: Big tech
CBS News

URL: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/democrats- ... -big-tech/
Category: Politics
Published: March 13, 2019

Description: When running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, Barack Obama visited Google's Mountain View headquarters, which was then considered a critical campaign stop for White House hopefuls. "What we shared is a belief in changing the world from the bottom up, not from the top down," Obama, then a U.S. senator, said as he drew parallels between the ambitions of the company's founders and his own political career. Now, a decade later, Democrats eyeing their party's nomination see connections to executives in Silicon Valley as more liability than asset, as tech companies have come under fire for privacy breaches, international interference, monopolization, discriminatory work cultures, and failures to control hate speech. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, has introduced a proposal to break up the tech giants. In her campaign launch, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar slammed tech companies over data mining and privacy. Others have signed on to legislation to protect personal data, and have grilled Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter's Jack Dorsey, and Google's Sundar Pichai in congressional hearings. For 2020 candidates, it's now cool to be tough on tech -- even as their campaigns utilize and benefit from data collection and social media. "It's been a huge sea change," says Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. "There was a lot of idealism, and maybe a utopian view of how all this tech and social media was going to put more power in people's hands and bring people together," says Trippi. "There is now this dystopian side...the glow is off." Taking on tech companies speaks to broader themes of accountability, corporate corruption, and fairness within the 2020 Democratic primary. But it could also add another layer of scrutiny to the candidates themselves, as Democrats have been the top recipients of donations from the electronics and communications industry. Some candidates count industry heads as constituents. And one veteran Democratic campaign operative told CBS News there should be criticism of any candidate who fundraises with wealthy tech chiefs. Democratic candidates have a long history of working alongside Silicon Valley power brokers. Trippi, the architect of Howard Dean's rebellious run at the 2004 Democratic nomination, used the internet to bypass the Democratic establishment and raise small dollar donations directly from voters. Though Dean was unsuccessful, the tactics pioneered by Trippi established a template used by many of the candidate's successors in the years since. Social media, then in its infancy, was a major factor in the 2008 general election. The Obama campaign used Twitter and Facebook to communicate with young constituents. His campaign also launched my.barackobama.com, a social network that used Facebook's Connect API to populate the network and target potential voters, organize get-out-the-vote initiatives, and target fundraising initiatives. The product was so successful that in 2016 the Ted Cruz campaign deployed a mobile application with several features seemingly inspired by the my.barackobama.com web app. The use of big data to micro-target voters and get-out-the-vote then became a key factor in the 2012 election. In an interview with TechRepublic, Obama's Chief Technology officer Harper Reed explained that campaign saw technology as "a first class citizen, as part of the campaign, just like field [operations], just like analytics, just like anything else." It was clear early in the 2016 cycle that technology, especially big data generated by social media, would be a critical component of the Democratic Party's campaign strategy. The Clinton campaign employed former Google and Facebook employees who worked alongside a large cohort of social media-savvy millennials to craft messaging specifically for social networks. The Clinton team's technological prowess, however, proved vulnerable to Russian hackers. Phishing attacks targeting top staffers helped derail the campaign by exposing critical information. Strategists say the evidence of Russian interference, and the revelations of Facebook's connections to firms like Cambridge Analytica, was a turning point in the relationship between Democrats and tech companies. "People all of the sudden realized these were powerful manipulation engines they put out for rent and that's dangerous," says Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute, advocating for proposals like Warren's. "You're seeing across both parties a real understanding of the power of these institutions. Even the platforms themselves are aware of the increasing political pressure." While it could be politically tricky to talk about regulating companies that are now so ingrained in people's lives, public opinion of social media companies has also changed. Americans now "understand these companies are doing things they really like, but that doesn't make them immune from criticism," says Stoller. Warren's proposal is focused on expanding anti-trust regulations and combating the emergence of tech monopolies. "The giant tech companies right now are eating up little, tiny businesses, startups -- and competing unfairly," Warren told CBS News' Ed O'Keefe. "What I'm saying is we've got to break these guys apart. You want to run a platform? That's fine. You don't get to run a whole bunch of the businesses as well. You want to run a business? That's fine. You don't get to run the platform." Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, another 2020 hopeful, agreed with Warren's proposal, and said she would introduce similar legislation in the House. Candidates with ties to the tech industry have also grown critical of it. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a Stanford graduate, has been known for connections to Silicon Valley leaders, and came under scrutiny in his 2013 Senate campaign for the big investments that poured into his own tech start-up. In 2010, as Mayor of Newark, he secured a $100 million dollar donation from Zuckerberg to reform his city's public schools to mixed reviews. Booker and other Democrats have concentrated on concerns over privacy and discrimination. During the Zuckerberg's congressional hearing last year, Booker told the CEO: "We've seen how technology platforms Facebook can actually be used to double down on discrimination." Booker asked Zuckerberg to allow civil rights groups to audit ads on housing, employment and credit to prevent discrimination. California Sen. Kamala Harris, who represents the state where Silicon Valley is located, has highlighted revenue Facebook acquired from 2016 election propaganda. And when Sheryl Sandberg testified last year, Harris questioned her about reports that Facebook removed hate speech directed at white men but not black children. At the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, Klobuchar suggested taxing tech companies for using consumer data. "When they sell our data to someone else, well maybe they're going to have to tell us so we can put some kind of a tax on it, just like we do with other businesses," Klobuchar said. "For so long these companies have said 'we got your backs' -- well, that's just not true."
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