It’s that time of the year again. You know, countless political ads, candidate Twitter wars, and long lines at the voting polls! Yes, election season is upon us. While it’s important to know candidates’ views on foreign policy and healthcare, there are fairly new issues everyone needs to consider when filling out a ballot. That is “big tech”, social media, and how each political player plans to factor these issues into their policies. Below, we have provided a brief summary of how the following candidates feel about social media, “big tech” and why these issues matter.
Deets you should know before reading:
Let’s start with a quick history lesson! Back in the day, the federal government enacted something called the antitrust law. Although these laws are not always common knowledge for consumers, the enforcement of these laws save consumers millions and even billions of dollars a year. There are three types of antitrust laws: The Sherman Antitrust Act, The Clayton Act, and The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act. Below is a quick breakdown of each.
The Sherman Antitrust Act–this act prohibits monopolies or unreasonable combinations of companies to restrict or in any way control interstate commerce (commercial transactions or traffic that cross state boundaries or that involves multiple states). This law could potentially regulate Amazon and Facebook.
The Clayton Act–prevents companies from engaging in predatory lending, a practice that forces unfair or abusive loan terms on a borrower, that might lessen competition or create a monopoly.
The FTC Act–designed to prevent fraud, deception, and unfair business practices in the marketplace. This law regulates influencer marketing.
Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren made a splash when she criticized the current guidelines regarding antitrust regulations. With the influence of “big tech” and social media, Warren feels policies are “outdated” and need to center themselves around creating division in the “big tech” industry as a means to improve the middle class economy. Throughout this blog, we will review individual candidate views on Warren’s proposal and the role of technology in politics.
Elizabeth Warren– As mentioned above, Elizabeth Warren has been very vocal on her opinions of the “big tech” industry. She has even gone as far as publicly shading Facebook’s leader Mark Zuckerberg, so it is only fitting that we kick the list off with her. It’s no secret that Warren wants to break up “big tech”. She feels companies like Facebook monopolize industries, ultimately decreasing consumer choice. She also feels that “big tech” causes a loss in jobs and promotes wage stagnation because smaller companies cannot compete will these large corporations. In her opinion, the healthy competition in capitalist America is declining, and taking the middle class economy with it. Therefore, her antitrust policy proposes that the government adopt legal restrictions that monitor what big tech companies can do. Check out this article on Warren’s exact plans to break up “big tech”.
Joe Biden– So far, Joe Biden has not made any definitive remarks concerning issues of social media. In fact, he simply doesn’t acknowledge it. Some suggest this is a mistake by his campaign because he gets a lot of media coverage (a large amount of it negative). There are suggestions that if he began to consider social media, not only in his political views, but also in his campaign, he would be able to control his narrative better.
Kamala Harris–Sen. Kamala Harris told CNN she wants to “seriously take a look” at breaking up Facebook, which she called “essentially a utility that has gone unregulated.” However, she has no actionable answers on how she will handle social media. Harris’s time in the Senate has earned her a rep of being a tough voice on data privacy, election security, and hate speech on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter–specifically calling for Twitter to ban Trump from its platform.
Andrew Yang–Andrew Yang seems to have the most unique perspective of his competitors, perhaps due to his Silicon Valley background. He does see the need to break up “big tech” companies, and his main concern revolves around the negative effects that large technology companies have on the youth. He specifically considers the mental health effects of depression and dependency on social media websites. Aside from mental wellness, Yang is passionate about rebranding personal data as a property right. Currently, tech companies are able to collect, repackage and sell individuals’ data with little oversight. Yang wants individuals to have the option to sell their personal data, or opt out of the process. He’s not wrong!
Yang also has a signature campaign policy known as the “Freedom Dividend,” or universal basic income. This gives American’s, ages 18-64,$1,000.00 a month, or $12,000.00 over the course of a year. This would be funded by implementing more taxes on big tech companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook.
Bernie Sanders–As far as his campaign goes, Sanders fully takes advantage of the marketing side of social media. Frustrated with the way traditional media covers him, he now chooses to bypass them and live stream his press conferences. Much like President Trump bypasses press by using Twitter. Sanders too has yet to make any public comments on Warren’s antitrust proposal. However, he did lead an effort in Congress last year to force Amazon to increase its minimum wage for workers. The campaign succeeded, and Amazon agreed to pay its workers more last fall. Since then, he continues to Tweet that Amazon must take better care of their employees.
Cory Booker--Cory Booker has always been open about his skepticism on major consolidations. More specifically when Amazon acquired Whole Foods. Booker has expressed that major consolidations cut jobs and secludes power to major companies. As a result, he suggests that government officials closely regulate any and all major mergers.
Joe Walsh–Walsh has not said much about “big tech” or social media, but he uses Twitter much like the current president.
Amy Klobuchar–In her initial campaign announcement, Sen. Klobuchar was one of the only candidates who originally incorporated issues like data privacy and net neutrality. Instead of commenting directly on Warren’s proposal, Klobuchar offered a separate option, similar to Yang’s, to tax tech companies when they either exploit, sell, or give user data to third-party sources.
Tulsi Gabbard-–After Warren released the antitrust plan, a goal to break up “big tech”, Gabbard Tweeted that she too agreed with Warren’s proposal.
Pete Buttigieg–When discussing issues of social media and technology, Buttigieg agrees that “big tech” needs to be broken up and that there are more monopoly concerns outside of “big tech”. These concerns involve issues like data ownership and privacy.
Julian Castro–Julian Castro’s voiced his take on the matter, stating “I agree that we have to be much stronger in terms of antitrust enforcement,” he said. “I believe that we need to ask a lot more of people at the top in this country, and of wealthy corporations. I don’t understand how Amazon made $11 billion in profit last year, paid no federal taxes, and at the same time, New York was about to offer them a $3 billion package to locate their second headquarters.”
John Hickenlooper–Hickenlooper agrees that ‘big tech” needs a watchful eye. He even suggests that the antitrust focus go beyond the tech giants. Hickenlooper brings up the question, “what are the benefits to society when you have mergers of really large companies like these? ”
Kristen Gillibrand–Gillibrand has her own opinions when it comes to”big tech”, specifically Amazon. She criticized Amazon’s attempt to build a headquarters in the Long Island City neighborhood of New York City. The day after Amazon’s announcement, Gillibrand responded saying, “one of the wealthiest companies in history should not be receiving financial assistance from the taxpayers while too many New York families struggle to make ends meet.”
President Donald Trump–President Trump’s relationship with social media is ironic. In his first campaign, he disvalued traditional media and leaned into new forms of digital media, like his infamous Twitter account. Now, he seems to be against “big tech” companies, grouping them into “Fake News” every chance he gets. He even said there is an algorithm bias favoring liberal candidates. Despite his rants on the dangers of “big tech”, he never seems to leave twitter and his campaign team heavily invests in Facebook ads.
You know it’s the 21st century when the presidential prospects have to debate matters like Facebook! It highlights the impact of technology and social media, and we are all getting front row seat to witness the progressive shift of societal issues. What do you guys think? We want to hear your thoughts on “big tech” companies and how they relate to politics. Also, which political policy stands out the most to you? Drop your comments down below and happy voting!