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Silicon Valley A Punching Bag For Presidential Hopefuls

U.S. presidential candidates have long come to Silicon Valley to raise money

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Silicon Valley, president, candidates, politics
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg campaigns in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson. U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg campaigns in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson. U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg campaigns in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson. VOA

U.S. presidential candidates have long come to Silicon Valley to raise money and, with a tech company campus as a backdrop, talk about innovation and the future. But, it has now become a punching bag for them.

But this year, things are different.

The 2020 presidential candidates are contending with the so-called “tech-lash,” the populist backlash against “Big Tech” over a host of issues, including data leaks, wealth accumulation, alleged erosion of worker rights, claims of censorship of conservative voices and concerns about the proliferation of extreme speech online.

Some political hopefuls are part of the tech-lash.

Silicon Valley, president, candidates, politics
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., gestures while speaking at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in San Francisco. More than a dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls are making… VOA

Recently, Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, joined protesters outside Uber’s headquarters arguing for a new California bill that would make contract workers, like Uber drivers, employees. Other candidates, such as Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, have also come out for the legislative measure.

Sanders has attacked technological innovations for upending local journalism and for what he calls biased policing, such as facial recognition technology. Warren says she would like to break up some of the tech giants.

“The area around these giants is referred to by venture capitalists investors as the ‘dead zone,’” Warren said during a CNN event. “You try to start up a business, you run the risk that Amazon steps in front of you or Google steps in front of you or buys you out before you get started.”

California senator

As California’s attorney general, Harris raised the issue of the lack of privacy policies on apps. So far, she has not made the tech industry a big issue in her national campaign.

But that may change.

When asked about the growth of companies such as Facebook, Harris told CNN, “There is no question in my mind that there needs to be serious regulation. … There needs to be more oversight; that has not been happening.”

Trump and Silicon Valley

President Donald Trump has led the way in puncturing tech’s one-time white hat image, hitting the industry hard on a range of issues, including allegedly censoring conservative voices online. He recently falsely claimed that Google manipulated votes.

But some candidates don’t want to mimic Trump’s style of conflict when it comes to tech.

When asked about the idea of breaking up Facebook, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said, “That sounds more like a Donald Trump kind of thing.”

He added, “We do not need a president that is going to use their own personal beliefs and tell you which companies we should break up. … We need a president that’s going to enforce antitrust laws in this country, and I will be that person.”

Silicon Valley, president, candidates, politics
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., gestures while speaking at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in San Francisco. More than a dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls are making their… VOA

Big tech — good or bad for America?

All this negative attention puts the tech industry in a bind, unsure which potential presidential hopeful might be an ally, said Lanhee Chen, who was head of policy for Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012.

“Certainly there are still people who believe in the value of technology companies, who understand tech as an important industry, an important contributor to the economy,” Chen said. “But increasingly I think people’s views have become more nuanced. And unfortunately, for the technology companies, in many cases, more negative.”

There’s a danger, however, in attacking tech, said Donnie Fowler, a longtime Democratic consultant and now an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco.

“The Democratic presidential candidates can’t come to Silicon Valley and attack technology and innovation broadly,” Fowler said. “You can’t come here and say that everything Silicon Valley is doing is bad for the country, bad for the economy, bad for Americans. Americans don’t even believe that.”

Tech CEO, employee divide

Campaign contributions offer a snapshot of the candidates and their relationship to the tech industry.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, contributions from workers at Alphabet, the parent company of Google, or the organizations’ political action committee, were the highest contributors to Buttigieg and Warren.

In contrast, tech executives have given to Democrat moderates such as Booker and former Vice President and Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, both of whom have not made tech much of an issue, according to CNBC.

ALSO READ: How the Australian NBN Works

YouTube recommendation algorithm

Max Kaehn, a Google software engineer, who has donated to Warren and other candidates, said he welcomes politicians who criticize his employer and other tech giants.

“With great power comes great responsibility and the tech companies have great power. We should get some scrutiny over it,” he said.

Some areas to look at, Kaehn said, is Amazon’s treatment of its warehouse workers, Facebook’s use of data and YouTube, which is owned by his employer, Alphabet.

“I think we should be talking about the YouTube recommendation algorithm,” he said.

While YouTube’s algorithm hasn’t come up in the Democratic presidential debates, observers say issues like these, once seen as esoteric or niche, may become front and center, reflecting the country’s ambivalence about the growing role of technology in their lives. (VOA)

Next Story

Greed For Power May Demolish The Democracy

Politicians compete with each other for power and this greed for power can demolish democracy

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democracy
Greed for power in politics may demolish democracy in India. Pixabay

By SALIL GEWALI

It is too disgusting that Shiv Sena is aiming for something which was nothing but an act of betrayal. Here the principles and ethos of the party are just sacrificed. The “chair” of Chief Minister is what the individual parties in Maharashtra are wanting so badly. And for this only Shiv Sena has severed its ties with its all-time ally BJP which emerged with the largest number of MLAs. Is it not the BJP with which Sena made the alliance before the election? Why so much bitter feelings after the poll result? Many past elections were fought on this mutual understanding. Sena had always taken pride and bragged about its power and clout as because the BJP was behind it. But now very contrary equation and chemistry are on display. NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena are sharing the ideas as opposed to the expectation of the whole electorate.

Democracy
Politics in India might lead to a sinking democracy.

One believes it’s Congress and its High common which Shiv Sena Supremo Late Bal Thackeray always disliked and ruthlessly held them up to ridicule. It was because they hold the opposing ideologies. But now his son Uddhav Thackeray kneeled down and sought the helping hand of those rival camps to walk the party through for the chair of Chief Minister. Going by the flood of comments on the social media, this party has ostensibly fallen from the grace. BJP is not a holy cow either. It is equally good at flexes its muscles for the power.

Also Read- Being Terrorized Comes With Job for Women in Politics

While Maharashtra is already under the president rule, the NCP and Congress now exploring all possible means to back Shiv Sena.   Uddhav Thackeray only wants to see his son Aditya Thackeray being the Chief Minister of one of the riches states in the country. The trend is not at all healthy. Here everything is utterly clear that the cherished values of democracy in India are fast eroding. Majority of the states in the country, only the “particularly families” are  always standing up to rule the roost. This is a bigger threat to the fundamental values of the country.The NATION is no more controlled by the government of the people, nor is it for the people. It is the government of the particular families which is formed for the fulfillment of the low greed and narrow aspiration of those particular families. Lastly, it is the common people who are always at the receiving end of the leaders’ whims and tantrums. Phew, the country is not at all in the safe hands.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali