This presidential election presents one of the clearest choices in U.S. history between two major-party candidates. But one thing has been rarely discussed: Where do the candidates stand on tech issues? Whether it’s net neutrality, investing in tech infrastructure, building an educational pipeline of tech workers, privacy or any of several other tech issues, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton take very different approaches. It’s worth looking at their varied stances.
Let’s start with net neutrality. For Clinton, it’s straightforward. She supports the FCC’s rulings in favor of net neutrality. Trump opposes the concept. His primary statement on the matter came in a tweet in which he called President Obama’s support of net neutrality an “attack on the internet.” His full tweet is: “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.”
As for whether the government should be allowed to force tech companies to give the FBI back doors so the government can get access to people’s phones even if they’re locked, Trump is for it. In February of this year, he called for a boycott of Apple unless that company developed software to allow the FBI to break into the phone of the San Bernardino mass shooter. Clinton’s views are much closer to Apple’s on the matter. Her tech position paper says, "Hillary rejects the false choice between privacy interests and keeping Americans safe," which mirrors the stand of Apple CEO Tim Cook. She favors setting up a commission on encryption, privacy and security to come up with proposals for balancing safety and privacy.
Clinton supports expanding broadband access and developing next-generation mobile 5G technology, as part of her $275 billion plan in infrastructure spending, which would also put money toward roads, bridges, airports and railways. Trump hasn’t put out any plans for increasing broadband access. He has, however, recommended that the government limit access to the internet in some instances. Late last year, he said that the government should consider “closing that Internet” in order to stop Islamic jihadists from recruiting people in the United States. He said, "We're losing a lot of people because of the Internet. We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what's happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some ways. Somebody will say, 'Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.' These are foolish people."
When it comes to making sure that the U.S. provides a pipeline of people for the tech industry, Clinton has a comprehensive plan that includes investments in computer science and STEM education in the public schools, training additional computer science teachers and giving grants to programs to retrain workers for tech-related jobs. Trump hasn’t said much about tech education. Instead, he would target what he believes are abuses in the H-1B visa program.
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