Oct 5, 2019

The brewing storm for Big Tech

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The backlash against Big Tech is on track to escalate around the world in 2020 and with more concrete consequences.

Driving the news: Just this week The Verge published leaked audio of Mark Zuckerberg's internal Facebook meetings, wherein he claimed Facebook would win the legal challenge posed by Elizabeth Warren if she were elected president.

The big picture: Pressures are coming to bear as the growth of smartphones stalls and innovators vie to figure out what will replace them. Platform transitions always make tech incumbents quake.

  • In Washington, regulators and lawmakers are finally getting the details they've wanted about the full power of tech companies — and how to fight back.
  • In state capitals, attorneys general and legislators are stepping in to investigate and counter anticompetitive practices.
  • On the campaign trail, liberals assail the power of big tech and call for breaking up Facebook and Google, while conservatives decry their power and accuse them of silencing their voices.
  • In newsrooms, investigative reporters are following more threads and leads to expose the power of tech giants and the false promises of new startups.
  • On Wall Street, investors have lost patience with money-hemorrhaging startups and loose-cannon founders.
  • Around the world, a trade breakdown is severing supply chains and nationalist forces are splintering the global internet, shaking the foundations of the tech industry's decades-long march to dominance.

Yes, but: Tech giants today control vast hoardes of cash, armies of talent and troves of data, and they provide billions of customers around the world with convenient, personalized, often free services.

  • Unlike their predecessors, they might have the resources to outmaneuver and outlast government assaults.

The bottom line: Partisan political battles dominate the headlines, but this is the conflict that will shape our economy and society.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump's call to treat antifa supporters like terrorists could be a green light for high-tech surveillance of dissidents.

Why it matters: It's unlikely the Trump administration can designate antifa as a terrorist group in any legally meaningful way, but the declaration gives law enforcement tacit approval to use a plethora of tech tools to monitor protesters and left-leaning activists.

The biggest crisis since 1968

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Bettmann/Contributor

The year 1968 has been on a lot of people’s minds lately — another year of protests, violence and upheaval that seemed to be tearing the nation apart.

Yes, but: This crisis also has moments we’ve never seen before — and some historians and experts say the differences suggest that 2020 doesn't compare well at all.

SoftBank to launch $100M fund backing companies led by people of color

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

SoftBank COO Marcelo Claure said in a letter to employees early Wednesday that the firm will create a $100 million fund that "will only invest in companies led by founders and entrepreneurs of color."

Why it matters: The Opportunity Growth Fund is one of the first to put significant capital behind companies' statements of empathy and outrage in response to protests over systemic racism in the U.S. typified by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans by police.