Tech has been given surprisingly little airtime during the 2020 Democratic primaries. It has rarely come up on the debate stage. While candidates such as Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, and Amy Klobuchar have made tech-related issues part of their platforms, the matter is often eclipsed by other political hot topics, including health care and taxes.
That exclusion, however, belies how important technology — and the conversation around how if at all it should be ruled and regulated — has become for constituents and candidates alike.
Consolidation and sprawling growth have seen fewer and fewer tech companies eating up a greater share of total profits, leading to federal and state investigations of monopoly behavior that potentially leads to less innovation. Tech platforms have become bastions of misinformation, influencing American elections and even, arguably, infringing on our human rights. Meanwhile, technologies such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition are bringing up a whole host of concerns about largely unregulated areas, from how law enforcement should be allowed to employ these technologies to the responsibilities companies bear if this “fourth industrial revolution” results in a widespread elimination of human jobs.
We put these seven questions to every candidate:
- Should Facebook, Google, Apple, and/or Amazon be broken up? Why or why not?
- How should platforms be held responsible for misinformation or hate speech on their sites?
- In the event of a crime, should the government be able to access Americans’ encrypted conversations?
- Who should control Americans’ online data, and how should tech companies be punished when they fail to properly protect and steward this data?
- How, if at all, should tech companies be held responsible for the jobs they eliminate with their innovations?
- Facial recognition is largely unregulated in the US. How, if at all, would you regulate facial recognition technology for surveillance and policing?
- What’s the most important tech-related issue that Americans are facing in the next four years?
We reached out to all of the 2020 Democratic primary candidates and received responses from (in order of early December polling averages) Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, billionaire Tom Steyer, and Sen. Michael Bennet. Here are their answers.
—Emily Stewart and Rani Molla