What Democrats running for president in 2020 have said about big tech

Kamala HarrisSen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., left, pause as protesters disrupt the confirmation hearing of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018.Scott Applewhite/AP

  • Artificial intelligence, automation, tech monopolies, and privacy are bound to be contentious issues in the 2020 presidential election. Many Democrats who have announced bids have already made their opinions on big tech known. 
  • Senator Bernie Sanders played a significant role in getting Amazon to pay its workers $15 an hour, while Cory Booker once took a $100 million donation while he was mayor of Newark from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
  • Here is what Democrats running for president in 2020 have said about big tech.  

President Donald Trump has not been shy about sharing his views on tech companies, with frequent tweets alleging political bias at Google and tabloid-worthy attacks on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. But what about his opponents in 2020? 

Storied politicians like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who recently announced presidential bids, have already made well-documented criticisms on companies like Google, and Apple, while up-and-comers Senator Cory Booker and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg have been friendly with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. 

As the list of hopeful Democratic presidential nominees grows, the debates about what to do with big tech will only become more contentious. 

Here's what the presidential candidates have said about artificial intelligence, automation, privacy, and policy:

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Cory Booker, the senator from New Jersey and the former mayor of Newark, has been outspoken about the inequality in Silicon Valley.

Cory Booker, the senator from New Jersey and the former mayor of Newark, has been outspoken about the inequality in Silicon Valley.

Booker went on Recode's podcast in July 2017 and said the government should be fighting "corporate villainy" in the tech sector.

He was also one of many lawmakers who grilled Zuckerberg during last year's joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on the social media site's Cambridge Analytica scandal.

But Booker isn't inherently hostile to tech. He was himself once the co-founders of web-based video startup Waywire, and as mayor of Newark he even received $100 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for the city's public schools.

Source: Recode, Inc., NJ.com

Mark Zuckerberg tells Sen. Cory Booker that he is "committed" to ensuring activist groups like Black Lives Matter are not unfairly targeted or monitored on Facebook https://t.co/EzscIeU3Ck pic.twitter.com/OaP2jQnq7c

— CNN (@CNN) April 10, 2018

Pete Buttigieg is the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana and served in the Navy Reserves and was once deployed in Afghanistan.

Pete Buttigieg is the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana and served in the Navy Reserves and was once deployed in Afghanistan.

According to the Washington Post, Buttigieg has already begun to express empathy, as part of his high-tech economic platform, for workers who may soon be replaced by automation and robots.

At a recent Technology 202 sponsored by the Post, Buttigieg said on the topic of tech policy, "We need to make sure that these don’t sound like abstract conversations."

He also took to Twitter last April when Zuckerberg appeared before lawmakers amid various privacy scandals, lambasting politicians for their inability to grasp what tech companies do.

Source: The Washington Post

This isn’t funny, it’s stunning. How can tech be wisely regulated if policymakers have no grasp of the basic concepts? https://t.co/dRbezFakxP

— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) April 11, 2018

Julián Castro was once the youngest member of President Barack Obama's cabinet, serving as his housing secretary. Castro is also the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas.

Julián Castro was once the youngest member of President Barack Obama's cabinet, serving as his housing secretary. Castro is also the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas.

While Castro hasn't given many mainstream interviews about his thoughts on big tech, he has taken to Twitter to criticize New York and Virginia for "throwing billions of dollars at Amazon" in pursuit of its HQ2 bid.

Castro remained rather vague with his criticism, and said without investment in affordable housing and education, "you’re just going to build greater inequality."

Source: Twitter

There are so many more effective ways that New York and northern Virginia could build prosperity than by throwing billions of dollars at Amazon. I’m willing to bet they have not set aside resources to invest in more affordable housing, infrastructure, classrooms and
1/

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) November 13, 2018

John Delaney is a businessman and former congressman from Maryland. He launched his presidential bid long before his competitors — in July 2017.

John Delaney is a businessman and former congressman from Maryland. He launched his presidential bid long before his competitors — in July 2017.

He called technological innovation and automation "the most powerful forces in the world today" in a op-ed published in the Post announcing his 2020 run. Recently, he called for policies that reckon with job automation due to artificial intelligence.

This week, after the revelations of a hidden microphone in Google's Nest Guard product, Delaney told Business Insider that tech gadgets should be required to have ingredient labels, similar to food.

"We have requirements through the FDA on labeling. And so obviously there was a time in this country's history when we didn't have those things and society got more progressive in thinking about the needs of its citizens," he said.

"If there are implications in the device that relate to your privacy, it should be disclosed."

Delaney has also been vocal about the fallen Amazon headquarters in New York, calling the company's decision to abandon New York "a bad outcome" for the region. "The Amazon deal was jobs & Ds should be pro-jobs."

In the same thread he said the concentration of tech power is a matter of "federal policy."

Source: The Washington Post, Axios

The next Amazon is not often started by an ex Amazon employee. That's why Silicon Valley has so many startups. An ecosystem gets created. That was one of the benefits as well.

— John Delaney (@JohnDelaney) February 16, 2019

Tulsi Gabbard, the congresswoman from Hawaii, has come out in strong support of net neutrality and a "free and open" internet.

Tulsi Gabbard, the congresswoman from Hawaii, has come out in strong support of net neutrality and a "free and open" internet.

Gabbard said in a speech to congress, "The internet must continue to be open and equally accessible to all, not just for a privileged few."

In a Feb. 11 campaign video posted on Twitter, Gabbard said, "[We must] stand up against over-reaching intelligence agencies and big tech companies who take away our civil liberties, privacy, and freedoms in the name of national security and corporate greed."

In 2016, Gabbard participated in a Google panel with other tech leaders focused on building opportunities for women in the industry.

Source: C-SPAN, Twitter

Kirsten Gillibrand, the senator from New York, told Axios "America lags on privacy and cybersecurity."

Kirsten Gillibrand, the senator from New York, told Axios "America lags on privacy and cybersecurity."

“Senator Gillibrand believes technology, when harnessed correctly, can create jobs, strengthen American security, and expand educational opportunities,” a spokesperson for Gillibrand told Axios in an email. “However, she also recognizes that governments and private businesses can exploit an individual's personal data, which must stop.”

Gillibrand has previously praised tech companies like Facebook and Etsy for its generous paid parental leave policies, but said access to such "should not depend on where you live or work."

She also made her thoughts on Amazon's HQ2 bid known in Noveember 2018, taking to Twitter to say she was concerned with the financial incentives the company was set to receive.

Source: Axios, Twitter

My statement on @amazon’s announcement of a new headquarters in New York City: pic.twitter.com/nwNVpyh1AP

— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) November 14, 2018

Kamala Harris, the senator from California, has publicly fought against online sex harassment as a prosecutor and has expressed concern over facial recognition technology.

Kamala Harris, the senator from California, has publicly fought against online sex harassment as a prosecutor and has expressed concern over facial recognition technology.

Harris hails from the heart of America's tech economy, having served as San Francisco District Attorney, where she embraced "new tech to fight crime."

But she's also pushed back against the abuse of tech for surveillance.

In a letter provided to TechCrunch and sent to the FBI, Federal Trade Commission, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Harris, along with some other lawmakers, noted the possible bias in facial recognition technology and its ability to "misfire."

Following the Google Nest microphone revelation, Harris told Business Insider in an email statement that: "Americans shouldn't have to fear that the products in their home could be spying on them."

"'It's easier to ask for forgiveness than seek permission' or 'it's in the fine print' are not workable privacy policies," Harris told Business Insider. "But they're ones that tech companies routinely fall back on."

Source: Politico, TechCrunch, Twitter

Amy Klobuchar, the senator from Minnesota, said she will make tackling big tech one of her first priorities as president.

Amy Klobuchar, the senator from Minnesota, said she will make tackling big tech one of her first priorities as president.

In a speech announcing her candidacy earlier this month, she said:

"We need to put some digital rules of the road into law when it comes to privacy. For too long the big tech companies have been telling you 'Don’t worry! We’ve got your back!' while your identities are being stolen and your data is mined."

During her time as a senator, Klobuchar has been outspoken about the impact technology companies like Facebook have on the lives of Americans.

She went on NPR in December to discuss the efforts to regulate Facebook and other tech giants. She told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, "I think the evidence is becoming so overwhelming that we can no longer be paralyzed. It feels like - these companies, they somehow thought for years that they could just be bystanders in what is a never-ending cyberwar. And in fact, they've been used, they've made money off of it big time, and it is time to step in."

Source: WCCO Radio, NPR

I’ve been saying for a long time that we need digital rules of the road. This report just proves why we need to move quickly in the United States to protect everyone’s privacy.https://t.co/Q8NiiEU8nb

— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) February 18, 2019

Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont and who famously ran against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary, previously called out Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for not paying workers fairly.

Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont and who famously ran against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary, previously called out Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for not paying workers fairly.

In October, Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour after repeated criticism from Sanders, according to Axios.

During his 2016 presidential run, Sanders was able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from employees at various tech companies in Silicon Valley — Microsoft, Alphabet Inc. (Google's parent), and Apple employees contributing nearly half a million dollars 8 months before the general election.

Sanders has historically run as the anti-corporation candidate. In a 10-minute video announcing his candidacy for 2020, he said, "I'm running for president because we need to understand that artificial intelligence and robotics must benefit the needs of workers, not just corporate America and those who own that technology."

Source: Axios, The Washington Post

Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, has been an early supporter of antitrust policies for tech giants, calling out Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple in the process.

Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, has been an early supporter of antitrust policies for tech giants, calling out Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple in the process.

In a 2016 letter, Warren said tech giants use their platforms to eliminate competition, comparing the Silicon Valley corporations to Wal-Mart.

The Washington Post reported shortly after Warren announced her 2020 bid that one of her main issues will be to break up corporate monopolies and give power back to workers.

In a campaign video she said, "How did we get here? Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie. And they enlisted politicians to cut them a bigger slice."

Source: Warren.gov, The Washington Post

Marianne Williamson, most notably Oprah's spiritual adviser and best-selling self-help author, announced her bid in late-January.

Marianne Williamson, most notably Oprah's spiritual adviser and best-selling self-help author, announced her bid in late-January.

Williamson has not made many mainstream critiques of technology companies nor has she called out founders specifically, but she compared Facebook to Big Brother in a tweet last December.

In a tweet from September 2017, Williamson called Google, which was founded by Sergey Brin, an immigrant, "a real drain on the economy."

Source: Vox, Twitter

It's no better to have a Big Brother named Facebook than it is to have a Big Brother named the US government. It's totally appropriate for Americans to be outraged at invasions of privacy, no matter where they come from.

— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) December 19, 2018

Andrew Yang, a former tech executive himself and founder of Venture for America, was named a Champion of Change by the Obama White House in 2012.

Andrew Yang, a former tech executive himself and founder of Venture for America, was named a Champion of Change by the Obama White House in 2012.

Yang's Venture for America is geared "to revitalize American cities and communities through entrepreneurship," according to the nonprofit's website.

Yang is running on a progressive platform, which would guarantee $1,000 a month for every American over 18 years old (sort of like universal basic income). He has also said he plans to fight tech job replacement, i.e. automation and robotics, likely to hit "retail, call centers, transportation and food" industries.

Just this week, Yang called current tech antitrust laws "out of date" on Twitter and said he would craft legislation to regulate artificial intelligence.

Source: MIT Technology Review

US antitrust laws are hopelessly out of date. They are designed to prohibit price gouging due to monopoly power. Today’s tech giants would never dream of gouging. Instead they price others out of the market and consolidate. The consumer wins but many lose. We need new approaches.

— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYangVFA) February 19, 2019
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