These are the major tech issues as South Carolina votes



The Democratic presidential candidates have made tech issues a major part of their platforms.


This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET’s full coverage of the 2020 elections.

South Carolina’s voters head to the ballot box on Saturday, the last Democratic presidential primary before Super Tuesday. Joe Biden, the former vice president, leads in polls in the Palmetto State. Close behind: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who already leads the delegate count and is the front-runner in national polling.

The contest comes on the heels of the Nevada caucuses, which Sanders won decisively, and ahead of the 14 states voting on March 3. California and Texas are among the states voting as the Democrats choose a candidate to challenge President Donald Trump. (If you want to follow the results, here’s how you can watch even if you don’t have cable.)

Technology is a key part of all the campaign platforms, which feature proposals on net neutrality, rural broadband and online privacy. To help you keep track of the candidates’ positions, as well as the Trump administration’s stances, CNET has put together the following election cheat sheet. 


President Donald Trump has been sympathetic to breaking up tech companies, but not because of antitrust concerns. Instead, the president has expressed concern that big tech companies discriminate against conservative voices. 

Joe Biden: Says that the industry needs more regulation and that some companies might need to be broken up.

Bernie Sanders: Believes tech companies have too much power, and has said he would “absolutely” look to break up Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Elizabeth Warren: Has made breaking up tech giants, including Facebook, Amazon and Google, a cornerstone of her campaign. Specifically, Warren wants to undo past mergers and acquisitions, like Facebook’s purchase of Instagram. She has also called for legislation that would prevent companies that own platforms from competing on them, such as Amazon selling its own products in competition with other vendors.

Pete Buttigieg: Says that the industry needs more regulation and that some companies might need to be broken up.

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Amy Klobuchar: Says that the industry needs more regulation and that some companies might need to be broken up.

Mike Bloomberg: Tells the Bay Area News Group that Warren and Sanders don’t “know what they’re talking about” in regards to breaking up tech giants but acknowledges that some companies have gotten too powerful.  

Online privacy

The Trump administration has met with big tech companies and trade groups to discuss privacy protection. It hasn’t, however, indicated potential approaches to the issue.

Biden: The former vice president hasn’t said much about data privacy on the 2020 campaign trail. But some people have expressed concern about Biden’s record on other privacy issues, including the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which requires telecoms and device makers to help law enforcement surveil traffic on their services and devices.

Sanders: Says company executives should be “prosecuted if there is evidence of negligence” in cases of consumer privacy breaches.

Warren: Says CEOs of big companies should be fined or face jail time for hacks or privacy breaches that affect a certain number of users. 

Buttigieg: Supports a US version of the “right to be forgotten,” a European regulation that lets citizens request that platforms like Google remove certain search results about them. 

Klobuchar: Favors what’s been called a “data dividend,” which would tax companies for sharing user information and return the money to citizens. 

Bloomberg: Says the federal government should pass data privacy laws or draft regulations and has suggested the European Union’s GDPR as a model.

Rural broadband

The White House worked with the Federal Communications Commission on the Rural Digital Opportunity program, which reallocates $20.4 billion in funding to subsidize broadband infrastructure in underserved areas. Trump has also included high-speed internet access as part of a $2 trillion infrastructure plan.  

Biden: Has proposed spending $20 billion to expand rural broadband

Sanders: Has proposed High-Speed Internet for All, which would include $150 billion in infrastructure grants and which would require ISPs to provide a low-cost basic plan.  

Warren: Plans investments of $80 billion in rural broadband, and suggested that grants will go to local governments and publicly funded utilities rather than ISPs.

Buttigieg: Plans to invest $80 billion in rural broadband.

Klobuchar: Promises to connect every household in the US to the internet by 2022.

Bloomberg: Pledges to expand broadband access to all Americans by 2030.

Net neutrality

The FCC, under Chairman Ajit Pai, in 2017 ordered the repeal of net neutrality. The move eliminated rules preventing broadband providers from blocking or slowing access to websites or charging companies extra to deliver content faster. After a federal court upheld the repeal last year, Trump called the decision a “great win.”

Biden: Hasn’t stated support for net neutrality regulation as a presidential candidate. When Biden was a senator, he never co-sponsored or supported net neutrality legislation. He’s cozy with Comcast executives, who have lobbied against strict net neutrality regulations. Comcast senior vice president David Cohen hosted Biden’s first fundraiser after he announced his bid for president. 

Sanders: Has long supported net neutrality, calling the 2017 repeal of the FCC’s Obama-era net neutrality rules “an egregious attack on our democracy.” He advocates reinstating the FCC’s net neutrality regulations, including classifying broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. 

Warren: Supported the Senate effort to turn back the FCC’s 2017 repeal of net neutrality. She’s promised to restore net neutrality regulation and appoint FCC commissioners who will regulate internet service providers as “common carriers” under Title II. 

Buttigieg: Has promised to “make net neutrality the law of the land” if elected president. When Buttigieg was mayor of South Bend, he signed the Cities Open Internet Pledge, in which he committed to take steps to prevent internet service providers from “throttling, blocking, or limiting government content on the internet.”

Klobuchar: Says she will codify “strong” net neutrality principles within her first 100 days as president. She’s long supported net neutrality and was the only senator to grill Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation on his dissent in a case that upheld the 2015 net neutrality rules. 

Bloomberg: Hasn’t stated one way or the other if he supports net neutrality regulation or legislation to protect the openness of the internet. 

China and tariffs

Trump has used tariffs — taxes paid by importers on goods arriving from foreign countries — to pressure the Chinese government on broader trade issues. Two rounds of tariffs, including a 15% tariff on products like phones, laptops and tablets, have gone into effect. Another round was avoided in a “phase one” trade deal. 

On the campaign trail, the candidates have been particularly tightlipped and vague about their views on China. 

Biden: Says Trump’s negotiations have hurt American farmers and manufacturers. He says the US needs “new rules” and “new processes” to dictate trade relationships with foreign countries.

Sanders: Says he “strongly supports” tariffs against China but argues “Trump gets it wrong in terms of implementation.”

Warren: Supports aggressive negotiations with China but says “tariffs are one part of reworking our trade policy overall.”

Buttigieg: Says the US has “a lot of different forms of leverage in the relationship” but calls Trump’s tariffs a “fool’s errand.”

Klobuchar: Says it’s OK to use tariffs to negotiate, but Trump has been using them “like a meat cleaver.”

Bloomberg: Has lobbied against Trump’s China tariffs. 

CNET’s Andrew Morse contributed to this report.

Originally published on Feb. 20. 


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