Biden Has a Chance to Reshape Tech. Will He?
Two schools of thought on the new administration
For all of Donald Trump’s railing against Amazon’s “monopoly,” social media “censorship,” and Section 230 protections for internet companies, his administration did very little to take on the technology industry. Its most notable acts were the repeal of net neutrality, sanctions on Chinese tech firms, and the launch of antitrust investigations and lawsuits against U.S. tech giants, which will be left to the Biden administration to pursue. Trump also moved late in his term to restrict H-1B visas; the fate of those rules will be in Joe Biden’s hands as well.
Despite their occasional dust-ups with Trump, the largest U.S. tech firms reaped tremendous gains under his watch. They emerge from his presidency bigger, stronger, and more powerful than ever, flourishing even amid a pandemic that has battered much of the economy.
Trump’s predecessor was arguably even better for Silicon Valley: Barack Obama viewed tech giants as allies rather than adversaries, and his administration greenlit mergers that vastly expanded their reach while cheerleading their disruption of old industries and norms and limiting privacy enforcement to wrist slaps.
Biden arrives at a moment of bipartisan backlash to Big Tech’s power and has an opportunity to dramatically reconfigure the regulatory landscape, for better or worse. Will he?
How Biden could reshape the internet — or not.
There are two schools of thought. One recalls the Obama administration’s cozy relationship with Silicon Valley, notes Vice President Kamala Harris’ ties to companies such as Uber, points out Biden’s reliance on tech allies as advisers, and predicts a relatively easy ride for Big Tech over the next four years. We might see some new regulations around online privacy and content moderation, but they’ll be crafted with close input from the industry and tailored in ways that the largest firms are well-equipped to comply with. We might see some new antitrust regulations or enforcement actions but nothing that truly threatens the largest platforms’ dominance.