Updated Mar 10, 2018

Republicans get on the anti-Big Tech bandwagon

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

The backlash against the power players of Silicon Valley is testing pro-business tendencies of Republicans, including the influential chairs of the commerce committees in the House and Senate, and giving conservative activists a new cause.

Why it matters: It's rare for powerful Republicans to pressure corporations that haven't run afoul of the law — but tech is proving an exception to that rule, highlighting the ways in which political attitudes toward the industry have changed in the last year.

Republicans are following concerns from the conservative base that doesn't trust the companies or feels left behind by them. Here are the 2 factions in the Republican assault:

  • Hardline conservative activists who view tech companies as opposed to their views and policy positions. That ranges from Phil Kerpen, who distributed an early plan last year to regulate Facebook and Google, to the conservative journalist Peter Schweizer, who will debut a film critical of Big Tech later this year.
  • Establishment Republican lawmakers who usually try to avoid regulation but are frustrated by Silicon Valley's misbehavior. They've also watched their longtime allies in the software and telecom industries seize on the tech backlash in the last year. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune told reporters this week that while he's "not a fan of regulation" he expects more "responsiveness" and "transparency" from tech companies. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Greg Walden said at a February Axios event that if “responsibility doesn’t flow, then regulation will."

But, but but... The zeal to go after the tech companies among activists is being countered by free-market policy experts whose views long defined Republican orthodoxy on tech issues. Jesse Blumenthal, who manages the Charles Koch Institute's work on tech, said that tech and antitrust experts on the right have not embraced the critical view of tech giants — in contrast to their counterparts on the left.

The tension inside the party played out in a recent meeting organized by Americans for Tax Reform when a representative of the libertarian-leaning Lincoln Network presented the organization’s survey showing that conservatives feel uncomfortable in Silicon Valley.

  • Multiple attendees expressed worries that the survey could be used to justify regulation, according to sources in the room.
  • A Facebook staffer who specializes in conservative outreach also pushed back on the survey's findings.
  • Lincoln Network’s Co-Founder and President Aaron Ginn told Axios the survey was meant simply to portray what life is like for conservatives in Silicon Valley, not encourage regulation.
  • (The Americans for Tax Reform employee who organized the meeting, Katie McAuliffe, declined to comment because the gathering was off the record.)

The bottom line: After some reliable Democratic defenders started leveling criticism at Big Tech, it can't count on a defense from typically pro-business Republicans.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Infections number tops 140,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now infected over 142,000 people in the U.S. — more than any other country in the world, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: COVID-19 had killed over 2,400 people in the U.S. by Sunday night. That's far fewer than in Italy, where over 10,000 people have died — accounting for a third of the global death toll. The number of people who've recovered from the virus in the U.S. exceeded 2,600 Sunday evening.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 721,584 — Total deaths: 33,958 — Total recoveries: 149,122.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 142,106 — Total deaths: 2,479 — Total recoveries: 2,686.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: Cases surge past 720,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

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