The US’s Democrats on Big Tech Companies : Any Changes on 2020 Election?
Sat, 01 Jun 2019 || By Anggika Rahmadiani

In the United States, big tech companies run under the liberal economy setting which being supported by the Government. We can trace back how former President Obama embracing Twitter and Facebook as progressive, smart entrepreneur who wants best for America.[1] But Democrat currently seems unhappy on the dynamics of technological innovation and have a significant concern on how big tech companies ruined an ideal democratic country. The issues that become a concern generally ranged from a long-time monopoly, data privacy, customer protection and hate speech. It’s mainly about how technology state and society can come into an ideal arrangement that ensure the justice for users and fair market system. In this commentaries we will thriving for the ideal arrangement between tech sector, government and state market by seeing the 2020 Presidential Candidates’ standpoints.

 

How the candidates perceived this issue?

US Presidential Candidates are now seeing technology innovation as one of the most emerging issues in society. The popular view started from making technology as a scapegoat for economic inequality. There is Elizabeth Warren who claimed that  big tech companies monopolize the market and become the predator for others enterprises and Bernie Sanders with his deeds towards a future of work that AI claimed to be one of the major factors that change workers scheme by eliminating several jobs.[2] We will begin by looking at the bold move from Sen. Elizabeth Warren who brought up the agenda of Break Up Big Tech.

Warren criticized the big tech companies’ anti-competitive gesture which playing double roles, as a platform owner, and also as a seller itself. It made the big tech companies like Facebook, Google and Apple dominating the market and left no choice for customers. Warren also giving her bold disagreement on these big tech’s acquisition move, i.e Facebook who bought Instagram and Whatsapp[3]. She suggested the companies to break up their enterprise through imposing a stronger Antitrust Enforcement Law so that the market can become more just to its player.

Warren was raising the righteous consciousness among society on how big tech companies are anti-competitive in monopolizing the market and using Antitrust Law as a medium to execute the plan. She even succeeded in bringing discussion about Antitrust Enforcement Law to the House with specific issues on internet usage such as net neutrality and data privacy. We can see apparently her idea being internalized among the big tech companies' employees[4].

However, the specific ‘break-up plan’ seems rather vague towards the real problem of anti-competitiveness nature in the big tech companies. These companies have distinct strategy in defending themselves against their competitors due to different business model that they have. Only because these companies labelled as a ‘big tech’ doesn’t mean they should be generalize into one single break-up plan based on how much they earn. As Stratechery’s Ben Thompson pointed out the real nature of these companies: Amazon is a retailer; Apple a combination of hardware maker and platform makers; Google is a search and advertising company, and Facebook a publishing and advertising company.[5] 

So, how effective was the Anti Trust Law to solve market dispute? Government dropped the case of anti-monopoly violation by Microsoft and IBM, it’s only able to force AT&T to dissolve themselves.[6] These anti-competitiveness goes hand-in-hand with the acquisition move by the big tech companies as they become an aggregator to its fellow merger companies, and this acquisition arrangement should be what the state can intervene. 

How about our former Democrat presidential candidate 2016, Bernie Sanders? His  stance still not far from his socialist democrats strategy. He has been pushing Amazon to rising minimum wage and ensuring workers right, that become an extension of his campaign. As he concerned on the future of work in US, Sanders also mentioned Artificial Intelligence that should not only benefit the capital owner but also the worker and user, and he also raised a concern on how to protect the workers from automation era. [7]

 

Andrew Yang: A New Comers Techie

Andrew Yang who was a former tech entrepreneur - has more centric stance in viewing big tech issue by not only viewing an antagonistic side of technology - he recognized AI impacts on net gain and job relocation after automation happened. Along with popular belief of government that big tech needs to be charged with higher tax, Yang proposed the end means of the policy is an instant cash redistribution through a universal basic income -  $1,000 that come from the big tech companies tax and revenue.[8] Yang also has 7 others programs (out of 106) in his campaign that focused on tech, including net neutrality, reviving the Office of Technology assessment, data as property, regulating AI & other emerging technologies, algorithmic trading/fraud, crypto/digital asset regulation, quantum computing and encryption.[9] Among others presidential candidate, Yang stand out as the most technologically-literate candidate who’s capable on handling tech problems comprehensively. But due to his underdog position in the party, it’s so unfortunate that he can only get 1% national vote.[10] 

 

Conclusion

Tech sectors grew up vastly after former President Obama openly embrace them as a partner - nearly a decade ago. They already become the biggest multinational corporation with such significant socio-political influences, intertwined within states and society globally. Things that not being said by the Democrat candidate are these giant techs actually already become their loyal major party donors.[11] By seeing how problematic and unrealistic the policy that being offered by the candidates, it leads to an assumption that, were these campaign only an anxious political gesture to gain a populist voice from the society that currently facing a challenge with massive technological disruption?  As Tony Blair pointed out, “the first politicians who master this tech revolution and shape it for the public goodwill determine what the next century will look like."[12], so in 2020, American will see which candidate that will be able to master this challenge and shape a better future digital society.

Editor: Anisa Pratita Mantovani

Read another article written by Anggika Rahmadiani

 

[1] Streitfeld, D. (2019). Why a Big Tech Breakup Looks Better to Washington. New York Times [Online] Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/17/technology/google-facebook-amazon-antitrust.html [Accesed on 11 May 2019]

[2]Johnson, K. (2019). Democratic 2020 presidential candidates are raging against the machine (intelligence). Venture Beat. [Online] Available at https://venturebeat.com/2019/03/15/democratic-2020-presidential-candidates-are-raging-against-the-machine-intelligence/ [Accessed on 12 May 2019]

[3] Patel, N. (2019). Elizabeth Warren Wants to Breakup Apple, too. The Verge [Online] Available at

 https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/9/18257965/elizabeth-warren-break-up-apple-monopoly-antitrust [Accessed on 12 May 2019]

[4] Tolan, C.(2019). Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple employees donating to Elizabeth Warren, even though she wants to break up big tech. Mercury News [Online] Available at  https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/04/19/elizabeth-warren-president-tech-campaign-donations-berine-sanders-kamala-harris/ [Accessed on 11 May 2019]

[5] Thompson, B. (2019). Where Warren's Wrong. [Online] Available at https://stratechery.com/2019/where-warrens-wrong/ [Accessed on 12 May 2019]

[6]  Streitfeld, D. (2019). Why a Big Tech Breakup Looks Better to Washington. New York Times [Online] Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/17/technology/google-facebook-amazon-antitrust.html [Accesed on 11 May 2019]

[7] Johnson, K. (2019). Democratic 2020 presidential candidates are raging against the machine (intelligence). Venture Beat. [Online] Available at https://venturebeat.com/2019/03/15/democratic-2020-presidential-candidates-are-raging-against-the-machine-intelligence/ [Accessed on 12 May 2019]

[8]Ibid

[9] Yang 2020. (2019). Our Policies. [Online] Available at https://www.yang2020.com/policies/. [Accessed on 11 May 2019]

[10] Ro, C. (2019). Andrew Yang Is the Tech-Loving 2020 Candidate Promising Free Money for All. Vice News. [Online] Available at

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qvynnp/meet-the-tech-loving-presidential-candidate-promising-free-money-for-all [Accessed on 12 May 2019]

[11]  In the 2018 midterms, tech companies clearly favored Democrats over the GOP: 69 percent of Amazon money went to Democratic federal campaigns, as did 79 percent of Facebook money and 83 percent of Alphabet (parent company of Google) money.

Shahani, A. (2019) Democratic Candidates Target Tech Giants, Who Are Major Party Donors. National Public Radio [Online] Available at  https://www.npr.org/2019/03/11/702102576/democratic-candidates-target-tech-giants-who-are-major-party-donors [Accesed on 11 May 2019]

[12]Blair, T. (2019) The Next Great Debate will be about the role of tech in society and government. Tech Crunch [Online] Available at  https://techcrunch.com/2019/03/10/the-next-great-debate-will-be-about-the-role-of-tech-in-society-and-government/ [Accessed on 12 May 2019]