Amazon, Facebook, Google and the rest of the US technology giants. You can breathe a little more easily today. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren retired from the race to be the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, leaving only Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden as potential candidates to be on the ballot in November.
Warren attracted significant attention over the past year by saying that many of the world’s largest technology companies would be under scrutiny if she became president. Specifically, he promised to break Amazon, Facebook and Google and accused them of using their power to unfairly influence the market and absorb their competition. He also disagrees with Facebook’s lack of responsibility for the content that people post on its services, making fun of the company for its advertising policies that allow politicians to carry out campaigns that contain false information. He also had plans to significantly expand access to rural broadband and do everything possible to restore net neutrality.
With a previously broad field essentially reduced to two candidates, it is worth seeing what technology consumers (as well as the technology industry in general) have to lose or win with Biden or Sanders, if one of them becomes president in 2021 If you have followed his political tendencies, you will not be surprised to know that Sanders’ thoughts about great technologies align much more with Warren than with Biden.
Sanders is in favor of major antitrust reform, regardless of industry. “I think we need vigorous antitrust legislation in this country because you are seeing – you name the area, whether pharmaceutical products if it is Wall Street if it is high tech – less and less giant corporations that own those sectors,” said. He said at a live Washington Post event earlier this year. He specifically cited Amazon as a company that is rapidly moving towards becoming a monopoly and criticized Facebook for the “incredible power” it has over politics and the economy in the United States.
Sanders made similar comments in an extensive and unedited interview with the New York Times editorial board in January, making it clear that his focus was on greater enforcement of antitrust laws, regardless of industry. “I will be the first to admit it, but we have been abandoned because we have antitrust legislation that has not been enforced by Republican or Democratic administrations, and I intend to do so,” said Sanders. “And it’s not just about the big tech companies.”
Biden, on the other hand, has not been so clear or blunt about how he would deal with the tech giants in case of becoming president. However, one thing is clear: he is not a Facebook fan. In his interview with the Times editorial board, he criticized the company and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for circumventing what he considers to be his responsibility for the content posted on the Facebook platform. Biden has more personal skin in this game: Facebook has rejected requests to remove a Trump ad by making false claims about Biden and his son.
Biden specifically pointed to Facebook in the comments on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), something that is considered a cornerstone of the modern Internet. It protects companies like Facebook from being sued for the content published on its services due to its status as a distributor rather than an editor, protection that a journalistic effort does not enjoy. The revision or revocation of Section 230 would have a great effect not only on Facebook but also on Google, Twitter and probably also in dozens of other Internet companies.
“[Zuckerberg] knows best. And you know, from my point of view, I have been of the opinion that we should not only worry about the concentration of power, but that we should worry about the lack of privacy and its exemption, what [The Times] are not exempt, “Biden told the Times. “[Section 230] should be revoked because [Facebook] is not simply an Internet company. It is spreading falsehoods that they know are false, and we should set similar standards to what Europeans do in relation to privacy.”
As for breaking Facebook or other tech giants, Biden is less committed than Sanders or Warren. He told the Associated Press in May 2019 that the breakup of some of the technology companies was “something we should analyze carefully,” but that it is “premature” to say what the correct tactics were. At the same time, he said Warren “has a very strong argument to defend” for the break she proposed. That said, we are not holding our breath for Biden to adopt any of Warren’s plans now that he is out of the race; let’s not forget that Biden was vice president as part of the administration of President Obama, one that was quite friendly with Silicon Valley.