Written: January 28, 2017
Google, Apple, Facebook, Uber plan to draft a joint letter opposing Trump’s travel ban – Recode
It's been interesting to watch the early separate responses of big tech companies to the immigration executive orders begin to coalesce into something more like a joined-up response, with both combined efforts on possible lawsuits in states like Washington, and now this letter from several companies. This letter could have focused merely on the practical aspects of the impact of the EOs on the companies and their employees, but goes further than that (at least in the the current draft) to address refugees and use words like compassion, going beyond mere self interest. The letter is measured and offers assistance in finding better ways to address the intended goals of the recent actions on immigration, which is at once less confrontational and also slightly condescending – I'm curious to see if the text evolves at all from this version. At any rate, it's clear that we're going to see ongoing engagement at various levels by the tech industry in this issue, including from a number of co
Silicon Valley’s responses to Trump’s immigration executive orders, from strongest to weakest – The Verge
This is a good summary of the responses from the tech industry so far to President Trump's executive orders on immigration from Friday. It also does a nice job sorting the responses by strength – there's quite a range in the responses, from those focusing narrowly on the practical impacts on employees of each company to those issuing broader moral condemnations of the policy. This certainly won't be the last we hear on this topic. It's notable that as of right now Amazon is one of the major holdouts among the big consumer tech companies.
via The Verge
Apple-Supplier Foxconn Weighs $7 Billion U.S. Display Plant – Bloomberg
There are lots of pieces that come together in this announcement, though the actual details are still very vague, and no final decisions have been made. Firstly, there's the pressure from President Trump during the campaign (repeated since in a gentler manner) for Apple to produce some of its hardware in the US. Then there's the recent meeting between the SoftBank and Foxconn CEOs and Trump around bringing jobs to the US. And finally, the suggestion Apple might use Sharp (now owned by Foxconn to make OLED displays for the next iPhones). One scenario is that, as with the Mac Pro, Apple chooses a relatively low-volume, high margin product to manufacture in part in the US, with OLED screens from Sharp for a high-end iPhone 8 model one possibility. Apple has remained entirely silent on the question of manufacturing in the US, and of course doesn't actually build its own devices anywhere, instead relying on Foxconn to do the assembly, so the ball here is somewhat in Foxconn's court – with
Silicon Valley Takes a Right Turn – The New York Times
The headline is an exaggeration - two of the four big companies mentioned are based in Washington, not California, and it's their corporate PACs which have begun to favor Republican candidates, while their employees remain very firmly left-leaning. But the article does do a great job talking through some of the changes in recent years as big tech companies have shifted their donations towards Republicans while a Democratic president was in office. The data doesn't go back far enough to indicate whether this is just a cyclical thing, but there's some evidence the donations were motivated by hopes for more lenient regulatory and taxation policy under a Republican administration. Now that we're heading into Republican control of both Congress and the presidency, we'll see how that pans out in practice.
via Silicon Valley Takes a Right Turn - The New York Times
Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber say they won’t help Trump build a registry of Muslim-Americans – Recode
There's growing consensus on this point now among the major tech companies, and thankfully little new noise from the Trump transition team about putting this particular campaign promise into action. Of course, that's not to say it will never happen, or that the administration couldn't build the registry itself, but it's good to see tech companies showing some backbone on this point at least.
via Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber say they won’t help Trump build a registry of Muslim-Americans - Recode
Trump claims Google and Facebook are suppressing Clinton email news – Business Insider
Having already taken aim at both Apple and Amazon during the campaign, Trump began attacking Google and Facebook over perceived suppression of news about Hillary Clinton's email servers and the various on-again, off-again investigations into them by the FBI.
via Business Insider
Trump Hits Apple Over FBI San Bernardino iPhone – CNET
This was the second occasion when then-candidate Trump took aim at Apple during the campaign, with the first being his insistence that Apple should make more of its products in the US rather than overseas. This attack was over Apple's refusal to create a backdoor to the iPhone in order to assist the FBI with its case against the alleged San Bernardino shooters. This call escalated into a call for a boycott of the iPhone (all while members of Trump's team continued to tweet from iPhones).
Donald Trump Says He’ll Stop Apple From Making iPhones in China – Fortune
This was one of the first occasions on which then-candidate Donald Trump took aim at a big US tech company, with Apple the target. He argued that as president, he would insist that Apple make more of its products in the US rather than overseas. This is a theme he's returned to since and which both Apple and Foxconn have apparently responded to in some of their investigations of manufacturing in the US in late 2016 and early 2017.
Donald Trump Attacks Amazon and Jeff Bezos on Twitter
This was the first of several attacks by candidate Donald Trump aimed at Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos, which appear to have been inspired at least in part by Bezos's ownership of the Washington Post, which in turn had been critical of Trump's candidacy (along with the rest of the liberal media and much of the rest too) in editorials. The threats issued as possible retaliation were never specified in any detail, but as with his threats against Apple during the campaign, he kept them up throughout.
It was apparent throughout the 2016 US presidential campaign that Silicon Valley and the broader set of technology companies in the US was at odds with then-candidate Donald Trump on a number of major issues, from immigration to tariffs to US manufacturing and others. Donations to campaigns from employees of the major US tech companies heavily favored Hillary Clinton, and Google in particular had very close relationships with the Obama administration. On top of all that, Donald Trump made a number of pointed remarks about individual tech companies during the election, including Amazon and Apple. In short, the tech industry has appeared to be on a collision course with President Trump.
Since his election, the tech industry has largely trodden very carefully. The President-Elect held a roundtable with leaders of the big companies during the transition period after the election, and remarks from those who attended were very guarded. We’ve seen companies like Amazon issue press releases promising lots more jobs in the US over the coming years as an apparent sop to the administration, even though it’s fairly clear no new jobs are contemplated beyond those that were already planned. For companies like Twitter, Trumps’s presidency has been particularly conflicting, because the platform was a huge enabler of his campaign but most of its employees oppose his policies, and yet both Twitter and other major companies have been very quiet about the Trump administration and its policies, apparently out of fear of a backlash.
That is, they have been quiet until the last couple of days. The Executive Orders on immigration signed on January 27, 2017 have sparked the first real backlash from the tech industry against President Trump and his policies, and we’re starting to see the first real signs of outspokenness from an uncharacteristically quiet Silicon Valley. Two Facebook executives were the first to speak out on Friday, but a chorus of opposing voices began on Saturday, with most major tech companies having issued some kind of statement on the immigration orders by the evening (at the time of writing, Amazon is a major holdout).
It’s worth noting that not all statements from the tech industry have come with equal force – some have mostly focused on the practical implications for employees of each company, while others have gone further and made moral statements about the orders in broader terms. But there is now something of a united front among the tech industry, which may make it harder for the administration to react in a way that harms individual companies – indeed, it appears that some companies held back while seeing how others would react and only broke their own cover once it was clear they would not be alone.