So, with basically all the big predictors predicting a fairly easy Hillary Clinton victory last night, I was planning to write a post explaining the many serious problems with her vague, confusing and mostly empty tech policy proposals — and how there were going to be lots of things to pay attention to and fight for in the next four years. But with the surprise Donald Trump victory, it’s basically even worse, in part, because he has no tech policy at all and on the issues that we care about he’s bad to horrifically terrible.
Here’s a quick look at some of the issues that we care about and where Trump comes down:
- Free speech: Clinton was bad on this, but Trump is the one with the long history of bogus defamation threats and lawsuits — and a promise to open up our libel laws and make it easier to sue for defamation. Say goodbye to any chance of a federal anti-SLAPP law, and watch out for much worse.
- Mass Surveillance: Again, an issue where both candidates were terrible, and both seemed eager to expand mass surveillance and ignore the 4th Amendment. But again, Trump seems to care even less about the possible ramifications of this — and has even suggested that he’d like to use the power to go after his personal enemies, rather than the enemies of the country. And, outside of the Presidential election, the 4th Amendment took a huge blow in two key Senate races as well. Senate Intelligence Committee head Richard Burr, who doesn’t seem to care in the slightest about the 4th Amendment, beat his opponent, who used to run the North Carolina ACLU (an organization that cares deeply about the 4th Amendment). Burr’s victory was likely, but the polls (ha!) were at least close. Up in Wisconsin, however, basically everyone was predicting a return to the Senate for Russ Feingold, the only Senator who voted against the PATRIOT Act and a strong supporter of civil liberties. But in an upset, he lost to incumbent Ron Johnson.
- Encryption: I don’t believe Trump weighed in specifically on the whole “going dark” debate, but given his comments on mass surveillance and supporting law enforcement over all else, I’m guessing that the chances of a bill banning encryption just got a hell of a lot stronger. Download some strong encryption software now and learn how to use it, folks.
- Internet Governance/Net Neutrality: It’s just bad. Trump supported a ridiculously dangerous plan based on near total confusion about how the internet works. And I’m guessing this will present a big opportunity for Congress to gut net neutrality as well. Enjoy more power for AT&T and Comcast, folks.
- Copyright: Uh, who the hell knows? I don’t think it’s an issue that Trump has ever remotely weighed in on, but it seems unlikely that he’d surround himself with folks who understand the nuances of copyright policy and its free speech implications.
- Patents: Ditto the copyright statement. Again, I fear that given his previous statements, he’ll focus on using patents for much greater protectionishm, rather than greater innovation.
- High tech immigration: Hahahahahahah.
- Automation, Drones, Future of work, etc: Well, considering how focused Trump was on bringing back obsolete jobs, rather than ever mentioning innovation or how new technologies can change stuff… not expecting good things here either.
- Police brutality: Yeah, another one where Trump has made himself clear that he’s going to side with the police no matter what. That’s not good for basic civil liberties and the rule of law. “Law and order” and due process don’t always go well together.
In short, no matter who won last night, there would be lots of things to be worried about on the kinds of things that we talk about — but with Trump it’s pretty bad. On the issues he’s weighed in on, he’s taken really dangerous positions. On issues he hasn’t, there’s little suggestion that he has the understanding or even the basic intellectual curiousity to understand what’s important about them. I recognize that many of these issues aren’t the key ones that people are worked up about — and they certainly have very little to do with why Trump was elected. But they do matter. Trump has talked about protecting the constitution and making America great again. To do that, it has to mean more than just protecting the 2nd Amendment — and it has to come with supporting actual innovation. That seems a lot less likely right now and that should be a major concern.