Silicon Valley has managed to alienate both sides of the political spectrum. On the left, Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren intends to break up companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple. “Today’s big tech companies have too much power—too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” she wrote on Medium. On the right, House member Tom McClintock has accused Google and Facebook of “practicing censorship and political favoritism” (mostly while moderating threats and hate speech on their platforms), articulating the new conservative battle cry. During Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony last April, Republican senator John Kennedy warned the CEO: “I don’t want to vote to have to regulate Facebook, but by God I will.”
Big tech appears to be taking the threats seriously, going on a lobbying spree that saw five companies—Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft— spend $64 million in 2018, as well as sending executives to appear before congressional committees.
But don’t be fooled by appearances. Despite the Valley’s newfound unpopularity in Washington, the tech giants feel like they hold the upper hand, and their clout is only growing. Five of the world’s largest firms are US technology companies headquartered on the West Coast. Giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple all enjoy favorability ratings above 60%, according to a Gallup poll last year, while Congress’ approval rating hovers around 20%. Tech’s influence reaches deep into the White House: Google’s former executive chairman Eric Schmidt and PayPal founder Peter Thiel have enjoyed direct lines to Barack Obama and Donald Trump, respectively.