US Presidential Elections and Big Tech: can candidates really break up with tech?

 You have probably often heard about Big Tech companies: the five major technology companies, namely Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft. These companies lead the sectors of social media, technological devices, internet searches and e-commerce and they have combined a market capitalization of $4.4 trillion.Due to their preeminence in the technology market, Big Tech Companies influence the economy and society, they shape the way our world progresses.

When companies get very large, they exert political pressure on society, and their increasing power is often seen as a problem by politicians. This is exactly what is happening in the USA, where 2020 presidential candidates are calling for more regulation on America’s largest tech companies. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been the most eloquent, openly stating that big tech companies have too much power, harm competition and use our private information for profit. She wrote on Medium: “To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies.”

Bernie Sanders has called for a break-up of America’s largest technology companies, stating that he would appoint an attorney general who “would break up these huge corporations.”.

Moreover, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said strong antitrust enforcement is required, mainly looking back at past mergers like that of Facebook and Instagram as they can strongly harm competition. In the past, Donald Trump has also attacked Big Tech, accusing the companies of working against him and his administration.

However, campaign filings reveal that those same people who are harshly criticizing big techs, are also funneling millions of dollars into Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. The Federal Election Commission filings report that in the third quarter of 2019, Warren’s campaign paid at least $2.9 million to Big Tech, Bernie Sanders paid them at least $114,000 whereas Trump’s campaign spent $4.77 million on tech. Generally the candidates purchase ads, office supplies and computers.

Politicians can also use third-party agencies to place ad orders in the digital sphere, making the assessment of the actual quantity of money that candidates spend on Big Tech very hard.

Another aspect to be considered is that Big Tech workers are extremely important voters: donations to 2020 presidential candidates from employees of the state’s most prominent tech firms added up to $1.1 million by the end of January 2020.

Bernie Sanders received most donations from tech companies, followed by Elizabeth Warren. The majority of the tech workers who have made contributions to presidential campaigns are managerial and mid-level employees such as engineers, managers, and analysts.

The relation between politics and tech is extremely complicated. Data has shown us that it is very hard for candidates to distance themselves from Big Tech Companies as the products and services they provide are so pervasive and necessary.This consideration can apply to everyone: no matter our opinion on these tech giants, their influence and widespread presence in our daily lives makes it difficult to do without them. Could you imagine how your life would be without the Big Five?

Martina Mascaro

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