Aug 12, 2020 - Technology

What to know about Kamala Harris's alliances, brawls with Big Tech

Kamala Harris on the phone.
Vice Presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris, tapped Tuesday as Joe Biden's running mate, is not a "break up Big Tech" crusader. But should Democrats win in November and seek to go after Silicon Valley, she could bring prosecutorial rigor to the case.

Why it matters: The vice president doesn't normally run a president's tech agenda, but can still help set the tone on a wide range of issues for a presidential campaign and administration. Harris' familiarity with the firms in her backyard may give her an outsize role on tech policy.

The big picture: Harris came up through San Francisco politics and has many friends and allies in Silicon Valley, including among the Big Tech billionaire set.

  • Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg posted a photo of Harris on Instagram within minutes of Biden's announcement, cheering her selection as a "huge moment for Black women and girls all over the world."
  • Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and then-Yahoo and Apple executives Marissa Mayer and Jony Ive were among the big-name fundraisers for her 2014 bid for reelection as California attorney general, Recode's Teddy Schleifer noted on Twitter.

Yes, but: As both AG and as a senator, Harris has also turned the screws on Big Tech.

  • She pressured online platforms into action in a fight against revenge porn.
  • Harris backed the 2018 bill that chipped away at the tech industry's liability shield, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
  • She told CNN she would "take a close look at" breaking up Facebook.
  • Pressing platforms on misinformation, foreign meddling and hate speech, she's made tech CEOs squirm on Capitol Hill.

Between the lines: Harris is unlikely to lead the charge on calling to rein in Big Tech, but if the Democratic party makes good on its threats to do so, she may well become a key figure on tech policy in a Biden White House.

What they’re saying: At least one tech trade group praised the Harris pick.

  • “TechNet has worked with Senator Harris since her days as California Attorney General, and we know her to be a person of great intellect, integrity, and ability who fights for those who need a strong voice for justice,” TechNet president and CEO Linda Moore said in a statement.
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