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2021 and beyond: What a Biden presidency means for the tech sector

Whatever your political persuasion, a new President marks a new start in 2021. November’s election pitted two competing economic visions against one another – broadly defined as Trump’s protectionism versus a more ‘catch-all’ centrism from Biden – and it’s now clear that the Biden path is the one we’ll be following.


As the dust settles and we approach the January 20th inauguration, every sector will now be looking for clarity on what to expect for the next four years. Tech is a $1.9 trillion sector – only manufacturing and government are worth more – so a lot of focus will fall on what happens for those working in and around our sphere.


Here’s what we know so far…


Infrastructure investment offers opportunities for tech


The coronavirus pandemic has created a clear challenge for the economy. President-elect Biden has spoken on a desire to ‘build back better’ – with investment for the country’s infrastructure a key part of that. Tech will play a big role in this infrastructure upgrade – with a need for better broadband and telecoms as well as a gap for pioneers to come to the fore with solutions to make the nation leaner and greener in the years to come.


There’s a debate to be had on the role of big tech


There’s a big battle brewing (or maybe even already raging) over the role of big tech. All eyes are on what happens next to the antitrust lawsuit lodged against Google – and the potential for others to follow this. Biden is certainly thought to be less antagonistic towards Silicon Valley than some of the Democrat contenders he fought off in the party primaries – but that’s not to say he’ll completely reverse the direction of travel. There are more tech execs than critics on his transition team, however, which might point towards a softer approach. We can expect legislation on the role of big tech – but right now the nature of that is tricky to predict.


Social media rules are under the spotlight


Republicans and Democrats alike seem to agree on their dislike for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, although for different reasons. The law allows social companies the discretion to flag or take down content it deems unsuitable and, in effect, states they aren’t liable for what’s posted. Critics feel this can mean some voices are silenced – while others also feel it allows misinformation to spread. Right now President Trump is fighting for it to be ditched before he leaves the White House. Either way, new social media rules could be another hotly contested area of tech policy.


The China policy impact on tech


You might think that social media rules form a rare note of almost-consensus between the two parties in the US. However, the policy toward China also shows a sense of continuity. While it’s likely that a Biden Presidency will adopt a different tone, there’s every chance he’ll try to contain China’s tech ambitions. Challenging licensing practices, for example, is likely to be an area where the actions of the next regime pick up from where the current one leaves off.


There are several big issues awaiting President-elect Biden and his team. In the coronavirus recovery and foreign policy towards China we can see how big broad issues will be significant for those within the tech sector. Plus, in antitrust and social media legislation we can also see that specific tech battles are waiting to be fought.

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