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Big Tech braces for onslaught as Biden plans curbs on power

Moreover, the storming of Capitol Hill by a mob fired up by internet conspiracy theories and galvanised by Donald Trump and others via social media, has offered a compelling justification for a crackdown.


Reforms of Section 230 – the 1996 law that grants tech companies immunity from prosecution over social media posts that appear on their platforms – look increasingly likely.

Reports that Biden is considering the creation of a new antitrust tsar is a further sign of the administration’s plans. But, while antitrust action against Big Tech is likely to be a key theme of his presidency and could trigger a series of forced or self-imposed break-ups, there are other ways in which the new administration can impact the technology industry.

A blue wave may have put him in the White House but it is the green wave of stimulus spending, including a $US1.9 trillion ($2.5 trillion) climate plan to boost the use of clean energy in transport, power and construction that could have a profound impact on the US economy.

The package is set to include electric vehicle tax credits and other incentives, the creation of an emissions-free power sector by 2035 and plans to ensure 4 million buildings meet strict new energy efficiency standards within four years.

Tesla's plant in China. Elon Musk's company could be the beneficiary from a green wave of stimulus spending.

Tesla’s plant in China. Elon Musk’s company could be the beneficiary from a green wave of stimulus spending.Credit:Bloomberg

While Tesla may be the most obvious beneficiary, there are plenty of others. Electric truck maker Rivian and conventional carmakers such as GM or Ford that successfully manage the transition to electric vehicles also stand to gain, as could Apple if it can pull off its ambitious goal to develop self-driving electric cars, potentially with Hyundai of Korea.

Thousands of smaller firms in the electric vehicle or renewable energy supply chain, as well as innovators seeking to crack carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) or other clean technologies, could be winners too.

Another key focus for the new president will be cybersecurity. Much as the attack on the Capitol has spurred action on social media, so the devastating recent Russian cyberhack on the US government that exploited Solar Winds software could turn out to be a Pearl Harbour moment.

Unlike Trump, Biden understands there is little point in lavishing hundreds of billions of dollars on conventional military defence systems if your adversaries can cheaply exploit holes in your cybersecurity to wreak havoc and steal secrets.

Biden’s pledge to rebuild US cyber defences and to create a meaningful deterrent to those who violate them is long overdue.


There is another area in which Biden is likely to make an impact. Curiously, it is one of the few areas on which he might agree with his predecessor.

For all his threats and blustering, during four years in the White House it is remarkable how little Trump actually achieved in terms of regulating the technology industry.

By far the most meaningful policy shift he oversaw was to adopt a much tougher trade stance towards China. On that specific issue, we may see relatively little change under Biden.

There may be a softening of rhetoric and an effort to reduce tensions, but broadly speaking Biden appears unlikely to roll back many of the measures introduced by his predecessor to isolate China’s access to western technology and punish Beijing for its actions in Xinjiang.

Indeed, there is a growing sense that however misguided Trump may have been in many areas, he was on to something with China. This, after all, is a country that long ago banned most big western technology firms from its own market yet demanded access for its own overseas, despite widespread suspicions of industrial espionage and the theft of valuable technologies.

A toughening of the West’s stance on China was perhaps overdue – and Biden may be minded to dig in for the long haul.

The Telegraph, London

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