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‘The Techlash Should Be Over’: Commentator Wants to Call Off Big Tech Watchdogs in Light of the Coronavirus

David Jelke

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April 10, 2020— The coronavirus has stretched aspects of American society to its last line: Many businesses have seen broadband technologies as a lifeline to a precarious economy.

At an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation webinar on Thursday, commentators said that big tech has proved enough utility that its uglier, anti-competitive qualities should fade into the background.

“It’s become clear to all parties how important the tech industry is,” said David Moschella, a research fellow at the Leading Edge Forum, on the ITIF webinar.

“It’s what’s getting us through this period,” Moschella said regarding the services offered by big tech that have been tracked by this publication.

For example, Facebook has offered tele-education tools to schools for free, Amazon has provided employment and grocery delivery to tens of millions of immobile Americans, and Google has provided social distancing feedback to counties across America through its COVID-19 Community Mobility reports.

Antitrust allegations are valid and should be taken seriously “but they just pale in comparison to the value” that big tech provides to Americans and the “isolation economy” at large during quarantine, Moschella said.

“In many ways, I think the techlash should be over,” Moschella said, referring to the term used to describe the backlash to the ever-encroaching practices of big tech.

“The public was never that into techlash,” he added. “I think this whole period will take a lot of the bite out of that.”

Not everyone on the webinar shared Moschella’s belief. “We want to be cautious about writing off the techlash,” said Daniel Castro, vice president of the ITIF.

Castro highlighted the Senate Commerce Committee’s "paper hearing" on big data and the coronavirus that cautioned companies like Google for perhaps being too audacious with its use of data it has collected on the public.

Moschella disagreed with point. In fact, he took issue with big tech’s perceived lack of aggressive data crunching for coronavirus tracking. “I think they’ve taken a backseat,” Moschella said.

“The reality is that China… has managed this better than we have,” Moschella argued. “Something that’s gonna weigh on people’s minds, is how come they’ve done this seemingly so much better.”

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