When Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20th many people will let out either a sigh of relief or resignation — Silicon Valley however, will continue holding its breath.
Over the last four years, Big Tech has been an enormous part of the debate over democracy, free speech, and the uncertain future we're hurtling into. Disinformation, hate groups, radicalization and widespread shirking of responsibility have all been hallmarks of Silicon Valleys journey through the outgoing administration. This is a far cry from goodwill that they were afforded as companies that built their empires on harmless mission statements promising to "connect the world".
Despite being hauled into endless investigations, congressional hearings and pledging outwardly to fix the glaring issues deep within their practices — Big Tech has more or less gotten away with the bare minimum due to an administration that was often so unable to grasp what these companies did, that they could hardly manage any meaningful oversight.
That's all coming to an end now that President-Elect Biden and Vice-President Elect Harris are heading to the White House — and coming with them are experienced appointees and staff who do not suffer from the same lack of technical understanding that served Silicon Valley so well previously. Although despite the expectation that the Biden administration will hold these companies accountable, many activists fear Biden's tight tech ties could mean his administration will be using restraint when overseeing tech. This worry has been given legitimacy by the revelation that some Amazon executives will be a part of the Biden agency review teams.
While there is an increasingly bipartisan fear surrounding the power of Big Tech, one of the main topics of discussion has become whether or not the tech monopolies should be broken up. An unprecedented move?
Not at all.
In fact, during the Microsoft supremacy of the 90's, a very similar conversation was being had in the halls of government.
Many were concerned that Bill Gates would suffocate anyone who attempted to take a piece of the market, and they were right. During the Antitrust case brought by the government, Microsoft was accused of trying to create a monopoly that led to the collapse of rival Netscape by giving its browser software for free. After being sued by the Department of Justice in 1998, a judge ruled that Microsoft violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, ordering the company to be broken into two entities.
Although not a final result, the process was a milestone in the growing race to keep watch over tech companies and their seemingly endless appetite.
So, as January approaches, Big Tech has cause to be both afraid and optimistic — but the future of their supremacy all depends on whether or not the political willpower exists to hold them accountable.
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