Sep 28, 2020 - Technology

Exclusive: Where Trump and Biden stand on tech issues

Photo illustration of Donald Trump and Joe Biden on a binary background.

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Getty Images photos: Win McNamee and Saul Loeb/AFP

Joe Biden has laid out a more concrete tech agenda whereas President Trump has focused on tax cuts and deregulation while criticizing tech firms for anti-conservative bias. That's according to a side-by-side analysis of the two candidates' tech records by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation shared exclusively with Axios.

Why it matters: The tech industry needs to prepare for either four more years of Trump's impulsive policy approach or for a Biden administration that's likely to be critical of tech but slow to take action.

Context: ITIF, which compiled the research, is an industry-friendly think tank with tech executives on its board.

What they're saying: The report frames the central tech issue as China's challenge to American dominance.

  • "The reality is that America is no longer the global innovation leader, at least on a per capita basis, and it risks losing out to China over the next decade or two.... Whether or not the two major parties understand this threat and want to prioritize it is unclear," the report's authors write.

Some topics the report highlights:

  • Research and development: Biden has declared support for more investment in R&D. Trump has proposed increased funding for artificial intelligence but has been trying to cut support for research overall.
  • China: Trump focuses on being tough on China (see: the ongoing TikTok saga) and embraces a unilateral trade approach. Biden has said he wants to be aggressive with China but favors working more closely with allies on trade policy.
  • Immigration: Biden embraces his party's less restrictive vision on immigration, including the high-skilled worker program many tech companies heavily rely on. Trump has repeatedly worked to curb all types of immigration.
  • Antitrust and content moderation: Both candidates support potential antitrust actions against large technology companies and curbing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects online platforms from liability for user-posted content.
  • Hate speech and misinformation: Both Trump and Biden say online platforms need to change how they moderate content online. Biden says more needs to be done to prevent misinformation and hate speech, while Trump has repeatedly accused platforms of anti-conservative bias.
  • Privacy: Both candidates support a national data privacy bill.
  • Telecommunications: Trump's Federal Communications Commission rolled back Obama-era net neutrality rules. That "outraged" Biden, according to a CNET report.

The bottom line: Republicans and Democrats have both grown more critical of tech since 2016 while continuing to support measures that help the industry stay competitive globally. Whoever wins in November, the new administration will have to walk that line.

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