Silicon Valley has mounted massive, post-2016 digital offensive to remake political landscape

by WorldTribune Staff, October 28, 2018

The tech industry has unleashed an all-out offensive to elect Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections and thwart President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Silicon Valley in considered by many on the Left to be the ‘center of anti-Trump resistance.’

Many employees in the industry are “are focused on closing what they perceive to be an innovation gap with the GOP two years after Trump effectively tapped Facebook, Twitter and other data-heavy tools on his road to victory,” Tony Romm wrote for The Washington Post on Oct. 27.

Democrats’ new start-ups and other organizations have attracted high-profile investments from some of the tech industry’s deepest pockets, including Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn.

“Staying on the sidelines is no longer an option, and we can’t wait until 2020,” said Ron Conway, an early investor in Facebook and Google who has donated millions of dollars this cycle.

On Oct. 23, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who headed the president’s devastating social media strategy in 2016, accused Facebook and Google of “ramping up their purge of conservatives” ahead of the midterms.

“While the tech giants, which have deep liberal bias throughout their personnel and practices, place a thumb on the scale against conservatives online, we are undaunted,” a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign said. “We will continue to build our database of millions of supporters and are confident that they will turn out and deliver victory for the GOP on Election Day.”

Silicon Valley’s response began hours after Trump’s victory, Romm reported.

“The groundswell of activism in the country’s tech heartland offered an opportunity for digital strategists like Shomik Dutta and Betsy Hoover to experiment before the midterm elections” culminating in a new pro-Democrat “startup incubator”, called Higher Ground Labs, in May 2017.

“Amassing a roughly $5 million war chest, they set about trying to seed the next generation of tools that might help Democratic campaigns deploy Facebook ads and tap text messages to get voters to cast ballots on Election Day,” Romm noted.

Higher Ground Labs has invested in 23 startups, including MobilizeAmerica. “Think of it akin to the restaurant-reservation service OpenTable, but for shoe-leather politics: A candidate can post an event for knocking on doors, and interested supporters can snag a spot,” the Post reported.

MobilizeAmerica has been used by more than 400 campaigns which have deployed more than 254,000 volunteers who will try to visit, call or text about 19 million voters, according to Alfred Johnson, the co-founder of the company.

“A lot of people are very motivated by the presidency,” he said, “and we’re going to continue to see a ton of investment and activity in this space.”

Higher Ground Labs is also behind apps like VoterCircle, which helps organizers use their contacts for political messaging.

The DNC hired Raffi Krikorian, a former top engineer at Twitter and Uber, as chief technology officer last year.

One app, called MobilizeAmerica, has helped first-time Florida congressional candidate Lauren Baer find potential supporters in Florida’s 18th District. The app helped the campaign knock on more than 2,000 doors during a campaign event held a month before Election Day, Baer’s aides said, according to the Post.

“After the 2016 election, I think we saw a number of individuals in the tech space, in Silicon Valley and also around the country, frankly saying they wanted to use technology for good,” said Baer, who stands to become Florida’s first openly lesbian representative in Congress if she wins. “And because of that, we’ve seen a proliferation of new tools.”

Many in the tech industry were all in for Hillary Clinton in 2016. After her defeat, “they quickly set about protesting the incoming Republican president’s agenda,” Romm wrote. “Some rank-and-file tech employees soon pressured their bosses – the leaders of companies including Apple, Facebook and Google – to avoid working with the Republican administration, and many later took to the streets of San Francisco to protest Trump’s policies.”

But Silicon Valley’s “heightened attention to politics – and its commitment to aiding mostly Democrats – could saddle the tech industry with a new headache in the nation’s capital, where Trump and his GOP allies have alleged that tech giants are biased against the right,” Romm wrote.

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