In the daze of an election post-mortem, there’s always plenty of culpability to go around.
The people who wanted Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States are angry at the voters who elected Donald Trump, of course, but they’re also mad at the media, and the leadership of both major political parties, and—a relative newcomer to the political blame-game—Silicon Valley.
This year's presidential contest thrust the tech industry into the political sphere in new ways, and Clinton’s loss is forcing tech leaders to reckon with what Trump’s victory means for them.
For one thing, a Trump presidency underscores the extent to which left-leaning Silicon Valley is in a silo, culturally and politically separate from a huge population of people who use their products. As the Politico writer Tony Romm pointed out in a tweet, tech is what drives the same forces of globalization that so many of Trump’s supporters are pushing back against.
Trump’s victory is also reinvigorating the debate over the role of 21st-century publishing platforms—both as information disseminators and as centers for civic discourse. Part of this is because Clinton’s defeat came as such a shock to so many of those in the information business—journalists and tech companies included. (With Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPal founder and Trump backer, as an obvious exception.) Bloomberg characterized the tech sector’s reaction to the election as “a wave of despair and anxiety:”
“This feels like the worst thing to happen in my life. I assume we'll get through it, but it sure doesn't feel that way right now,” Sam Altman, president of startup incubator Y Combinator, tweeted. "Is this what it felt like when people first realized hitler could actually take power?" tweeted Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus. Shervin Pishevar, the co-founder of Hyperloop One, even suggested that California secede.
What remains to be seen is whether that sense of anguish will translate to any legitimate soul searching about technology’s role in Trump’s ascent—or in facilitating democracy more broadly. Up until now, Silicon Valley’s leading publishing platforms—including Facebook, Twitter, and others—have been adamantly, notoriously resistant to the idea that, as powerful publishers, they have an obligation to carry out basic editorial duties such as truth-seeking, fairness, and quashing the spread of fake news and other misinformation from spreading across their websites.