Big Tech executives gave big to Joe Biden, but that’s still not a reason to break up Big Tech.
New analyses of Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings expose how much support high-level employees of companies like Facebook, Twitter, Alphabet, and Amazon gave to the presidential candidates and other races.
Not surprisingly, they overwhelmingly supported the former vice president over President Donald Trump.
Analysis by tech news outlet WIRED found that roughly 95 percent of contributions by employees at the big six tech firms–Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Oracle–went to Vice President Biden and that those employees contributed nearly 20 times as much money to him as they did to President Trump since the start of 2019.
Fox News recently found zero Facebook or Twitter executives who donated to President Trump’s 2020 campaign while a few maxed out on donations to Vice President Biden hitting the $2,800 limit. They also identified dozens of Twitter and Facebook employees with management titles who donated at least $1,000 to the Biden campaign.
Is this more evidence of bias among Silicon Valley employees? Yes. But, there is a caveat. Campaigns are only required by the FEC to report contributions of $200 or more. These analyses don’t necessarily capture small-dollar support. We don’t know just how many of the rank-and-file at these companies may have supported President Trump, but safe to say probably not many.
While the staff at tech companies largely lean left, there are some conservatives, libertarians, and independents along with liberals working there who worry less about political agendas and more about making a good product.
That said, tech companies do themselves no favors when they censor political speech, especially from conservatives, and suppress reporting that they disagree with such as the Hunter Biden story.
Significant bipartisan momentum has built up in Washington to regulate Big Tech companies based on the fact that they are large and could wield inordinate power over their markets and our lives.
On the antitrust side, policymakers claim that Big Tech has grown successfully by squashing competition. Lawmakers on the right argue that Big Tech companies use their size and market dominance to silence speech they disagree with. Ironically, lawmakers on the left use the same antitrust argument to claim that platforms do not censor speech enough.
In addition, some members of Congress and the White House would like to reform or eliminate the liability protections that tech companies receive for the content shared on their platforms (called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act).
Much of the discussion about big tech is emotion-driven. Personal experiences of having a social media post removed because someone who disagreed with the message reported it as false or having your website content deprioritized in search results are data points that should not be ignored.
Here is the problem though. On the antitrust front, the historical standard to determine whether there’s been some sort of competitive breach has been consumer harm. Is there empirical evidence of harm to consumers? Arguably, technology and social media companies have grown big by both developing exponentially valuable services and products and also by acquiring startups or merging with other companies to deliver even better services with increasingly better user experiences. Posting across multiple social media platforms simultaneously is one example that has been made possible by mergers and acquisitions.
The benefits that technology’s constant advancement and evolution deliver to our families are innumerable and have been visible especially during this pandemic. Parents were able to work from home while overseeing their children’s virtual learning. Small businesses that were forced to cease in-person operations could still meet the needs of their customers and find new ones. Pregnant women, like me at the time, could maintain routine visits with their obstetricians from the safety of their homes. Grandparents could see their grandchildren even if they could not be with them physically. Retailers partnering with ridesharing and delivery services meant individuals did not have to venture out to buy groceries, cleaning supplies, and meals.
Breaking up Big Tech sounds simple, but it threatens the innovation that we depend on. It’s a path conservatives, independents, and liberals should be very wary to tread.