Will CEOs get a White House invite?

Fully Charged
Bloomberg

Hey y'all, it's Austin. One of Donald Trump's first acts as U.S. president-elect four years ago, even before inauguration, was to host a high-profile summit of top technology executives at Trump Tower. The December 2016 spectacle was intended to show off Trump's pro-business agenda and tout his ties to the innovators of America's economy.

It's a safe bet that team Biden won't be planning the same pageantry following his election victory over the weekend.

Looking back at that first tech confab, it's stunning how much the relationship between Washington and Silicon Valley has soured in the last four years. At the time, Trump sat in a conference room alongside the likes of Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Sheryl Sandberg and Tim Cook for a roundtable that served as a televised testament to the president-elect's art-of-the-deal flair.

Trump talked up the market's rise since his election ("so everybody in this room has to like me a little bit"), and said his goal was to keep the tech companies' "incredible innovation" going. "I'm here to help you folks do well," he said.

Today, there's a sense among both Republicans and Democrats that the technology industry is doing too well. In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic and economic downtown, sales and profits have been booming. Market caps are measured in trillions. The biggest tech companies are swallowing up promising competitors.

"These firms have too much power, and that power must be reined in and subject to appropriate oversight and enforcement," read a U.S. House antitrust subcommittee report issued last month. "Our economy and democracy are at stake."

Now that Biden has been elected, he's unlikely to reverse the tide of big tech vilification.

On the campaign trail, Biden called for a repeal of Section 230, the law that shields internet services from liability related to user-generated content. He suggested he'd push for Europe-like digital privacy standards. He's repeatedly knocked Amazon.com Inc. for not paying enough federal income taxes. And he's also taken digs at Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, who he called "a real problem," for the social network's approach to policing hate speech and disinformation on the platform.      

But there's reason to be skeptical that President-elect Biden will be reflexively anti-tech. The Obama administration was seen as friendly with internet companies like Google. Political contributions this year from the tech community largely flowed to Biden, suggesting it's not all that nervous about a Democratic presidency. And Biden's running mate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, is a California native with roots in the Silicon Valley area.

Even if Biden did want to enact sweeping tech regulations, he would likely have a hard time getting them through the Senate if it remains in the control of Republicans, whose ire has focused on perceived censorship of conservatives on social media.   

It's still too early to say whether Biden and Harris's campaign rhetoric will result in concrete policies limiting tech's reach and market power. But don't expect Biden to rush into any photo-ops with Zuckerberg and Bezos anytime soon. Austin Carr

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Steve Bannon has been suspended from Twitter after calling for Anthony Fauci's head to be mounted on a pike

With Square shares soaring 211% this year, analysts see potential for the fintech service to transform into an Alipay-like "super app" for broader consumer needs.

U.K.-based chip designer Graphcore is said to be raising funds at a $2 billion-plus valuation. Meanwhile, another British tech company, game developer Codemasters, is considering an acquisition by Grand Theft Auto-maker Take-Two Interactive.  

The Winklevii are billionaires once again thanks to a surge in the price of Bitcoin, which has more than doubled this year to $15,433.

 

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