Since so much of Big Tech joined the resistance against former President Donald Trump, it was predictable that so many industry players worked to help his Democratic opponent succeed.
President Joe Biden has deep-pocketed Silicon Valley support. Vox Recode reported that LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (now a Microsoft board member), Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt all had “ambitious” and sometimes “secret” plans to propel Biden into the White House. Hoffman alone was expected to spend $100 million trying to unseat Trump.
Recode reported that Hoffman and Schmidt were pouring millions into reviving the Democratic Party’s digital infrastructure. Hoffman also worked to help left-wing digital media groups posing as journalists defeat Trump’s “brand machine.” Schmidt created OneOne Ventures to invest in political startups teaching the left how to use the data once collected. Meanwhile, Moscovitz concentrated his efforts on Democratic voter turnout.
After Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee, the partisan divide of tech sector donations grew, according to CNBC. Biden received 12 times as much from them as Trump in spite of his criticism of Silicon Valley companies.
According to Vox, Biden’s pick of California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate was also sure to please the tech community. Harris is particularly close to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg who heralded the choice on Instagram.
Like many liberals, Biden has been concerned Big Tech companies don’t do enough to censor Trump. Rather than defend free speech online, Biden demanded Facebook fact-check political ads just before the 2020 election. (Facebook’s fact-checking has proven to be inaccurate and biased against the right). Facebook resisted and said it would protect political free speech. The company eventually reversed course and joined most major social media platforms in banning Trump in January 2021.
Biden also suggested determining if Facebook should be broken up through antitrust laws, and he called for Section 230 to be revoked. He said that he wanted social media companies to be “more socially conscious” and act with “journalistic responsibility.”
His campaign also had close ties to Big Tech, according to The New York Times. One of his closest aides came from Apple, and the Innovation Policy Committee that advised Biden included several employees from Big Tech, including: Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple. Some of them hoped to persuade Biden not to heavily regulate the sector.
- Biden’s campaign spent thousands on Facebook ads accusing the platform of being a “threat” to democracy. His ads urged people to join his petition against Facebook to take down inaccurate statements — mostly Trump’s.
- Security issues surrounding Chinese-owned TikTok prompted the Biden campaign to order staff to remove the app from their personal and work phones.
- Biden, then the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, wrote an open letter to Facebook in June calling on it to fact-check political ads in the two weeks leading up to the 2020 election.
- Biden raised $4 million from 25 donors at a single, Silicon Valley fundraiser in June 2020.
- "We should take a really hard look at” antitrust laws and the possibility of breaking up Facebook, said Biden in May 2020.
- In January 2020, Biden called for Section 230 to be immediately revoked from Facebook and other companies. This was just after Facebook refused to take down an ad about his son Hunter and Ukraine. Section 230 is the part of the Communications Decency Act that shields tech from liability over content published on their platforms. Biden argued Facebook is “not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false.”
- Axios predicted a Biden presidency would be “stabler” for Big Tech than a second-term of Trump and that the Democrat would not race to regulate tech early in the presidency. It conceded Biden might not rein in other Democrats who want much more regulation of the industry. However, Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island challenged that assertion on Yahoo’s “The Long Game” podcast saying, “There’s no reason to not expect a new administration to take this up in their first year.” Cicilline has led the House antitrust investigations of technology companies.
- Biden expressed willingness to regulate all online platforms to force them to “be more socially conscious” during a 2019 CNN town hall.
- Restoring net neutrality regulations was one of many policy items in a “Unity Task Force” document forged by Biden and former presidential competitor Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
- Biden wanted Amazon to “start paying their taxes.” In order to force them, he proposed a federal minimum tax of 15 percent of profits targeting companies like Amazon.
- He’s an advocate for privacy standards “not unlike the Europeans” and proposed to pay for a $20 billion investment in broadband access by taxing the wealthiest Americans.
- Before joining the 2020 presidential race, Biden sought advice from Twitter and other digital and social media companies to learn how to appeal to young voters.