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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Joe Biden's transformation into president-elect Saturday kicks off a new era for tech, giving an industry that's found itself increasingly at odds with government the chance for a reset.

The big picture: Biden's ascent could see the restoration of some tech-friendly Obama-era policies but is unlikely to end the bipartisan techlash that grew during Trump's term.

Here's what tech has to look forward to.

Tech's issues: D.C's spotlight will brighten on privacy, surveillance and hate speech online. These issues animate Democrats, and Biden has already pledged a task force to study ties between online harassment and real-world extremism, violence and abuse.

  • Yes, but: Democrats will need to pull out a long-shot flip of Senate control to pass new laws in most of these areas.
  • Still, the parties did get close in 2019 on negotiating a major federal data privacy bill. Even a divided Congress just might get that across the finish line.

Antitrust: Expect little immediate change in the progress of antitrust enforcement against tech companies — including the Justice Department's lawsuit against Google and a possible move by the Federal Trade Commission and/or several states against Facebook.

  • Democrats have more of a stomach for tough moves against business monopolies than Republicans, and they could embrace the aggressive findings of a House Judiciary report as well as expand the Trump DOJ's claims against Google.
  • Yes, but: Democrats in the White House and Congress face too many other massive crises — the pandemic, recession, healthcare, climate and more — to make action against tech firms a priority.

Telecom rules: With control of the Federal Communications Commission passing to Democrats, look for...

  • pushes to increase subsidies for universal high-speed internet and possibly to help municipalities build public broadband networks;
  • an effort to revive Obama-era net neutrality rules; and
  • quick rejection of continued action on Trump’s Section 230 executive order.

Singling out companies: Biden is likely to end the Trump administration's practice of targeting individual companies outside of normal regulatory processes, as it did in disputes involving TikTok, Amazon, Huawei and other firms.

  • Yes, but: The White House may no longer pursue this tactic, but it could be kept alive by populist Republicans moving away from their party's laissez-faire tradition.

Partisan warfare via online platforms won't end and might intensify, particularly from disappointed Trump supporters fired up by a recalcitrant former president.

  • Yes, but: While misinformation will remain a big challenge for companies, Trump's departure will turn down the volume on one big input-stream of baseless claims and charges.
  • Trump will still be able to tweet, assuming Twitter doesn't shut down his account, but his blasts will carry less consequence.
  • Complaints about alleged tech censorship of conservative views won't vanish — but will lose Executive Branch backing.

China: The trade war with China will likely pause as both sides reassess the landscape.

  • Yes, but: Broader U.S. conflicts with China are with us for the long haul. How the Biden administration chooses to address them will also shape the terrain on which U.S. tech vies for global advantage in new markets like artificial intelligence, 5G innovation and VR/AR.

The coronavirus: Tech has a new opportunity to contribute constructively toward pandemic mitigation.

  • Yes, but: The coronavirus is so widespread in the U.S. now that the moment for effective deployment and use of contact-tracing tools may well have passed.

Be smart:

  • Tech founders and CEOs don't face re-election every four years and don't have term limits.
  • The scale and power of Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook are unlikely to change any time soon.
  • They have led U.S. stock market for years, and there's little sign that could change as long as the Federal Reserve holds interest rates down — though a deadlocked Congress could sink stimulus efforts and doom us to a long slow recovery.
  • As in the past, if today's dominant firms ever find themselves eclipsed, it's more likely to happen thanks to a new wave of technological innovation than through government action.

Go deeper

App rush: Talent over trash

Data: Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Amid the sea of pollution on social media, another class of apps is soaring in popularity: The creators are paid, putting a premium on talent instead of just noise.

The big picture: Creator-economy platforms like Patreon, Substack and OnlyFans are built around content makers who are paid. It's a contrast to platforms like Facebook that are mostly powered by everyday users’ unpaid posts and interactions.

Jan 28, 2021 - Podcasts

Rep. Ro Khanna on top tech priorities, including Robinhood and Section 230

Big Tech is something all Americans use and most Americans complain about, no matter their political affiliation.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper into the Biden administration's top Big Tech priorities, plus discussion of Section 230 and Reddit day trading with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

General Motors puts Trump in its rearview mirror

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

General Motors (GM) is racing to prepare itself for a president and a world that takes climate change more seriously — and putting the Trump era behind them in the process.

Driving the news: GM yesterday announced an ambitious plan to end global sales of internal combustion vehicles by 2035. It's part of their wider new pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040.