What Biden means for Huge Tech – and particularly for Google
During his campaign to win the White House, President-elect Joe Biden has been relatively calm about the technology industry.
In an insightful interview with the New York Times in January 2020, Biden said he wanted to revoke Section 230. suggested that he disapproved of how friendly the Obama administration was getting to Silicon Valley; and described tech managers as "little horrors" who displayed an "overwhelming arrogance". However, internet companies were also among the top 10 donors of his campaign, tech industry insiders joined his campaign, and new Vice President Kamala Harris has long been associated with Silicon Valley as a former San Francisco District Attorney.
Aside from broadband access, climate policies, and coronavirus response, technology may not be high on Biden's priority list, says Gigi Sohn, who served as advisor to Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler during the Obama administration.
Biden suggested he disapproved of how friendly the Obama administration was with Silicon Valley … but internet companies were among the top donors of his campaign.
She says he will inherit other important issues that will – and should be – the early focus of his administration. "We could talk about the evils of the internet, but you still need it," she says. “I think it's more important to make sure every American has access to affordable broadband (than regulate the Internet) because that's what they need to live now … to work … to learn … and to see a doctor. ”
On Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after the first network scheduled the presidential election for Joe Biden, the president-elect published a transitional website listing his administration's agenda. There were four priority areas: Covid-19, economic recovery, racial justice and climate change. The technology was mentioned briefly, but with an emphasis on expanding broadband internet rather than regulating big tech companies.
What will tech regulation look like under a Biden presidency? It's not clear, but there are a few areas worth looking out for.
The Google lawsuit continues
At the end of October, the Justice Department filed its long-awaited antitrust lawsuit against Google. Experts, while disagreeing on the strength of the lawsuit itself, agree that it will continue under Biden's presidency. If anything, some argue that it is likely to be compounded, especially if several states (including New York) are expected to file their own lawsuits, which may be tied to the DOJ's efforts.
Additionally, the Biden administration "has the ability to amend this complaint," said Charlotte Slaiman, director of competition policy at Public Knowledge advocacy group. "There are actually more competition concerns about Google that could be included in a broader complaint," she says, including potential anti-competitive practices in display advertising.
Andrew Sullivan, President and CEO of the Internet Society, says he is "hopeful" that a Biden presidency will "mean fewer attempts to interfere with the direct operation of the Internet." That doesn't mean a rejection of antitrust regulation, he adds: "There are a lot of Democrats who want these companies to be broken up too, so we may not see a big change in politics."
Refocused the debate on section 230
Biden has spoken out in favor of repealing Section 230, the section of the Communications Decency Act that protects Internet companies from liability for the content they host.