Tech lead­ers to make peace or press their case with Trump Trump skew­ered as a ‘dis­as­ter for in­no­va­tion’

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

Sil­i­con Val­ley lead­ers were among Don­ald Trump’s most out­spo­ken op­po­nents dur­ing the presidential cam­paign. Yes­ter­day, though, many of them will come face-to-face with the pres­i­dent-elect for the first time since the elec­tion. The tech in­dus­try had mul­ti­ple con­cerns about Can­di­date Trump, among them fears that he would sti­fle in­no­va­tion, curb the hir­ing of com­puter-savvy im­mi­grants and in­fringe on con­sumers’ dig­i­tal pri­vacy. Those wor­ries may not have abated, but that’s not stop­ping tech­nol­ogy lead­ers from head­ing to Trump Tower in New York to make their peace - or press their case with Trump and his ad­vis­ers.

The CEOs plan­ning to at­tend in­clude Ap­ple’s Tim Cook, Al­pha­bet’s Larry Page, Mi­crosoft’s Satya Nadella, Amazon’s Jeff Be­zos, In­tel’s Brian Krzanich, IBM’s Ginni Rometty, Or­a­cle’s Safra Catz and Cisco Sys­tems’ Chuck Rob­bins. Face­book’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, Sh­eryl Sand­berg, will be on hand in­stead of its CEO, Mark Zucker­berg, who was one of many tech ex­ec­u­tives to ex­press mis­giv­ings about Trump’s pledge to de­port mil­lions of im­mi­grants.

Tech vs. Trump

It could be a prickly meet­ing. No other in­dus­try was more open in its con­tempt for Trump dur­ing the cam­paign. In an open let­ter pub­lished in July, more than 140 tech­nol­ogy ex­ec­u­tives, en­trepreneurs and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists skew­ered Trump as a “dis­as­ter for in­no­va­tion.” And Trump’s den­i­gra­tion of Mex­i­cans, his pledge to de­port mil­lions of im­mi­grants now liv­ing in the US il­le­gally, and his crude re­marks about women were widely viewed as racist, au­thor­i­tar­ian and sex­ist by an in­dus­try that prides it­self on its tol­er­ance. Trump, in turn, some­times lashed out at the in­dus­try and its lead­ers. He lam­basted Be­zos for the cam­paign cov­er­age of his news­pa­per, The Wash­ing­ton Post, and sug­gested that Amazon could face an­titrust scru­tiny if he was elected.

Trump also re­buked Cook for fight­ing a gov­ern­ment or­der re­quir­ing Ap­ple to un­lock an en­crypted iPhone used by a shooter in last year’s ter­ror­ist at­tack in San Bernardino, Cal­i­for­nia. And Trump’s re­peated screeds against im­mi­grants raised fears that he might dis­man­tle programs that have en­abled tech com­pa­nies to hire tens of thou­sands of for­eign work­ers with the skills to write com­puter programs, de­sign web pages and build mo­bile apps. The in­dus­try is also wor­ried that Trump might try to un­der­mine “net neu­tral­ity,” a reg­u­la­tion re­quir­ing in­ter­net ser­vice providers to of­fer equal ac­cess to all on­line ser­vices. Trump’s harsh char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the me­dia as dis­hon­est and un­fair has raised other fears that he might even try to re­strict free speech on­line.

Out of strife, peace?

Some in Sil­i­con Val­ley think the in­dus­try’s best move would be to keep its dis­tance un­til Trump changes his tone. For­mer Google ex­ec­u­tive Chris Sacca, now a tech in­vestor, ar­gues that in­dus­try lead­ers should steer clear of the meet­ing al­to­gether. Sit­ting down with the pres­i­dent-elect “would only make sense af­ter Trump has given pub­lic as­sur­ances he won’t en­cour­age cen­sor­ship, will stop ex­ploit­ing fake news, will pro­mote net neu­tral­ity, de­nounce hate crimes, and embrace sci­ence,” Sacca said. “If and un­til then, tech figures who visit are be­ing used to white­wash an au­thor­i­tar­ian bully who threat­ens not just our in­dus­try, but our en­tire democ­racy.” Most of the com­pa­nies with ex­ec­u­tives at­tend­ing Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing de­clined to com­ment ahead of the gath­er­ing.

But Or­a­cle’s Catz said in a state­ment that she plans to tell Trump “that we are with him and are here to help in any way we can. If he can re­form the tax code, re­duce reg­u­la­tion, and ne­go­ti­ate bet­ter trade deals, the US tech­nol­ogy com­mu­nity will be stronger and more com­pet­i­tive than ever.” Other tech in­sti­tu­tions are also sig­nal­ing an end to the an­i­mos­ity. The In­ter­net As­so­ci­a­tion, a trade group whose mem­bers in­clude Google, Face­book and Amazon, praised Trump in an open let­ter last month for his use of Twit­ter and other dig­i­tal tools to help him get elected. The let­ter also ap­pealed to Trump’s em­pha­sis on the econ­omy, cit­ing statis­tics es­ti­mat­ing that the in­ter­net sec­tor ac­counted for nearly $1 tril­lion of the coun­try’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

Some con­ser­va­tives say they’re ac­tu­ally wor­ried that Trump might get too friendly with tech. Peter Flaherty, the pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Le­gal and Pol­icy Cen­ter, charges that big tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies ex­ploited their close re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Obama “to feather their nests and push for poli­cies that benefit them at the ex­pense of the Amer­i­can worker.” Trump spokes­woman Hope Hicks said by email that the pres­i­den­t­elect “looks for­ward to meet­ing with this im­por­tant group of in­dus­try lead­ers and true in­no­va­tors.”

Com­mon ground: Tax cuts

The tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try al­ready sup­ports one of Trump’s ideas. He has promised to tem­po­rar­ily re­duce the cor­po­rate tax on for­eign prof­its from the cur­rent 35 per­cent to 10 per­cent to give US com­pa­nies an in­cen­tive to bring their over­seas cash back home. It’s a cut that Cook has been push­ing Congress to make be­cause Ap­ple has $216 bil­lion, or 91 per­cent of its to­tal cash, in over­seas ac­counts. Other tech com­pa­nies in line to benefit the most from a tax re­duc­tion in­clude Mi­crosoft, Cisco, Mi­crosoft and Google’s cor­po­rate par­ent, Al­pha­bet.

But Trump might not be do­ing many other fa­vors for tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies given his his­tory of hold­ing grudges against his op­po­nents, said Larry Irv­ing, a for­mer gov­ern­ment af­fairs ex­ec­u­tive for Hewlett-Packard who now runs a con­sult­ing firm. “Ev­ery­thing Trump has done so far sug­gests that he re­wards loy­alty and pun­ishes dis­loy­alty,” Irv­ing said. “The tech in­dus­try bet­ter have some pon­toons ready.”—AP

SEAT­TLE: In this file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Be­zos walks on­stage for the launch of the new Amazon Fire Phone, in Seat­tle. —AP

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