Are tech giants influencing the US presidential election?

CEOs of major US IT corporations have their own views on who should be president. Does that matter?

People unfamiliar with US politics might assume that the majority of Silicon Valley CEOs would be in favour of Democrat presidential candidates over the Republican side. Prominent technology companies rarely miss a chance to proclaim their strongly liberal values and are often portrayed by their detractors as being excessively left-wing and "woke". Google's ousting of James Damore was one such example, stirring up no shortage of political points-scoring on both sides.

US tech giants do their best to claim the moral high ground, both in their employment practices and in terms of the influence they have on the world via the (inter)actions of their users and customers. They depict themselves as the good guys, and "good" in this case means liberal, left-wing and Democrat... doesn't it?

The reality is more subtle and less clear-cut, not least in that left- and right-wing are labels that can't easily be applied here, particularly when it comes to big business and especially so in the case of this presidential election.

One might expect a Republican government to be keen on breaking up market-distorting entities that espouse and encourage broadly left-wing views, sometimes to the extent of censoring or de-platforming right-wing speakers. However, in fact it's the Democrat candidates who have shown more keenness and inclination to reduce these giants to a more manageable size.

At the time of writing, the field of Democrat challengers has been reduced to two - arguably one and a half, given the lead that Biden has over Sanders - but the majority of prior and current candidates have been vocal in their disapproval of the power wielded by large tech firms.

Elizabeth Warren, for example, was keen to break them up to reduce their influence and improve competition, aiming for legislation to designate them as utilities prevented from both owning and participating in the same marketplace. She would also have pushed to undo mergers such as Facebook and WhatsApp, again under grounds of improving market competition. Other now retired candidates, such as Pete Buttigieg, have been a little less vocal about breaking up big tech, merely stating that it's an option to be considered.

Bernie Sanders has expressed the strongest desire to break up big tech firms, concentrating on Amazon in particular. Tax and working conditions have been his prime focus, including an attempted "Stop [Jeff] Bezos Act" in the US Senate to counteract the issue of such corporations paying workers relatively little and allowing the government to pick up the remaining tab (similar to some debates about working tax credits in the UK).

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