Why Doesn't Joe Biden Have Any Tech Policy Advisors?
from the it's-not-like-they-aren't-around dept
While in Congress and then in the White House, Joe Biden was no friend of the internet. Indeed, while he was a Senator, he was a reliable vote on whatever terrible copyright bill Hollywood pushed for, and then in the White House he was, again, a giant proponent of Hollywood’s agenda. He convened a “piracy summit” that was only representatives of legacy industries — with no one representing internet companies, independent artists who use the internet, or any of the many artist and consumer groups out there. He’s also argued that get rid of Section 230 altogether, mainly because he doesn’t understand what it does, and he’s “never been a fan of Facebook.” And, when given the opportunity to push back on Donald Trump’s misguided attacks on 230, Biden still argued that he supported “revoking” the law entirely.
When I wrote about his bizarre attack on CDA 230, some people I know in the tech policy world reached out to say that I was being too harsh on Biden for saying he wanted to “revoke” 230, saying that he clearly didn’t mean exactly what he explicitly said, and that as he started to get better tech policy advice, they were sure he’d say fewer stupid things about tech policy. This is not a particularly strong vote of confidence (not that the other guy is any better on tech policy). Now, Protocol is reporting that the Biden campaign appears to have no tech policy people on the campaign:
The presumptive Democratic nominee does not have a top adviser focused on tech policy, according to campaign materials and party veterans, including some who have offered informal advice to Biden on tech.
The lack of tech leadership in the campaign marks a contrast with his Democratic predecessors, as well as some of Biden’s competitors in the Democratic primary, and reflects a belief that issues like online misinformation, privacy regulation and alleged anticompetitive behavior by tech’s giants will not be pivotal to unseating President Trump. To some advocates for reforming the tech industry, though, Biden ? whose written policy prescriptions largely avoid venturing into tech ? is missing an opportunity to lead in areas that have gained new prominence and urgency.
I’m not convinced that even if he was getting advice on tech policy that it would be good advice (or that he’d take the good advice). But the fact that his campaign doesn’t think this is an important issue is both notable and surprising (and a bit disappointing). I certainly don’t think that tech policy is something that will drive the electorate one way or the other (unfortunately!), but is is clearly a major issue for the next decade, and ignoring it entirely seems incredibly, ridiculously short-sighted.
“Nobody’s talking to Joe Biden about tech policy,” said one veteran of several Democratic campaigns, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to talk candidly. “If you look at Biden’s inner circle, Obama and Hillary always had people in their inner circle who were native to tech issues, and that hasn’t been the case with Biden.”
Indeed, Biden’s long-term love affair with Hollywood seems to have resulted in a lot less interest from the tech community. Oh, and apparently he’s tapped a former top MPAA exec as his deputy campaign manager:
There are still some grudges in the tech industry over Biden’s fervent support of SOPA-PIPA, two Hollywood-backed anti-piracy laws that the industry protested in 2012. “Biden has always been viewed as sort of Hollywood’s guy on tech and telecom policy,” the Democratic campaign veteran said. Biden’s deputy campaign manager for communications strategy, Kate Bedingfield, was a former vice president of communications with the Motion Picture Association of America, a trade group that counts Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner as members.
“The fact of the matter is, the vice president, when he was in the Senate, was an [intellectual property] guy,” Sohn said. “His focus in this area was more on copyright patent trademark than it was on broadband and telecommunications.”
The article concludes, somewhat obviously, that the election itself is not going to turn on tech policy, and so if the focus is solely on getting elected in the fall, Biden just might not need tech advisors. But tech policy is going to be super important, and so far Biden has demonstrated a weak grasp on the issues at best (saying he wants to get rid of CDA 230 is simply crazy talk). Given that so much of the emphasis on Biden’s campaign the last few months has been that he’d actually bring some competent people into government, the fact that he has no tech policy plan at all is at least a little disturbing — especially when technology is so key to the economy going forward.