Axios: As techlash heats up again, here’s who’s stoking the fire

June 5, 2020 Media

As controversies around online speech rage against a backdrop of racial tension, presidential provocation and a pandemic, a handful of companies, lawmakers and advocacy groups have continued to promote a backlash against Big Tech.

The big picture: Companies like Facebook and Google got a reputational boost at the start of the coronavirus lockdown, but that respite from criticism proved brief. They’re now once again walking a minefield of regulatory investigations, public criticism and legislative threats over antitrust concerns, content moderation and privacy concerns.

Be smart: Decrying tech giants’ power is an increasingly winning message among Americans on both the populist right and progressive left. It can also present competitive and political benefits for those voicing it.

  • The biggest power player is President Donald Trump himself, who recently escalated his feud with social media companies with an executive order taking aim at their liability protections after Twitter took action against his incendiary messages.

Here are the firms, faces and groups to watch as the techlash heats back up.

Advocacy groups: Organizations pushing for antitrust action or legislative changes have stayed on message during the pandemic. Two newer groups have quickly developed profiles as techlash agitators.

  • The American Economic Liberties Project launched this year with funding from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s the Omidyar Network, and is led by Sarah Miller, who also co-chairs the Freedom From Facebook and Google coalition. The project published a paper outlining antitrust and regulatory remedies for curbing the power of Facebook and Google.