Big Tech — like other large US companies — benefited from corporate tax cuts implemented under President Donald Trump. In many cases, the smaller tax payments helped boost their profits. However, not all of Trump’s policies and actions during his first term have played well with Big Tech.
“I think we have to separate the performance of the stocks from the challenges for the companies,” said DA Davidson analyst Tom Forte.
Another shift under Trump that could threaten Big Tech’s success: America’s changing “standing in the world,” said Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School and director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology.
“Silicon Valley succeeds because everybody wants to come here, the best and brightest people around the world come here to go to school, they come here to work at companies, they stay, they found their own companies,” Lemley said. “Even apart from the challenges to immigration … there’s a worry that America and SIlicon Valley might not hold that position in the world’s esteem in the future.”
Much of that could change if Joe Biden ultimately wins the election.
Here are a few of the key issues for Silicon Valley, and where experts expect Biden would stand.
“Historically, a more immigrant-friendly policy is beneficial for big tech, to the extent that it increases their talent pool for engineers,” Forte said.
The CEOs of some of Silicon Valley’s largest companies — including Google, Microsoft and Tesla — are immigrants.
Many Wall Street analysts expect a Biden administration would take a slightly softer stance on China tech and policy issues, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note to investors earlier this week.
Still, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have concerns about what China’s continued technological development will mean for US national security, something the next President will have to manage regardless of who is elected.
Section 230 and Antitrust
But Democrats and Republicans have differing reasons for opposing the law. Democrats want to hold tech firms responsible for removing hate speech and misinformation from their platforms; Republicans claim that by removing or moderating any content, tech companies engage in bias or censorship.
If, under Biden, Democrats introduced new regulations to replace Section 230, tech companies would likely welcome that more than a plan that simply removes the liability protection Section 230 provides, Lemley said. Eliminating the liability, which is more in line with Republican critiques, could set tech firms up for an onslaught of legal battles over content decisions.
Experts say antitrust pressure on the biggest tech firms is likely to continue regardless of who is in the White House next year.
Democratic lawmakers have in recent years supported broad antitrust enforcement of Big Tech. A Biden administration could also more tightly regulate merger and acquisition activity by Silicon Valley giants.
That could be good news for the larger tech ecosystem, though.
“We might get more competition and more innovation in Silicon Valley in a world where we had more antitrust enforcement,” Lemley said.
Investments and regulation
While these issues are by far the biggest flashpoints for Big Tech, Biden has laid out policy proposals in a number of other areas that are relevant to the industry.
“I think that would be net beneficial to all the Big Tech companies, to the extent that more consumers had a high speed internet connection,” growing their potential customer base, Forte said.