Roger McNamee co-founded one of Silicon Valley’s most successful venture-capital firms and was an important early investor in Facebook. But he has soured on Big Tech, arguing that it now promotes hate speech, undermines democracy and profits at society’s expense. McNamee was reading that Biden consulted two of Silicon Valley’s top figures. In response, McNamee has written a searing open letter to Biden in Wired magazine:
Unlike 20 years ago, today’s Silicon Valley culture is elitist and authoritarian. Its leaders are part of the problem, not the solution.
DEAR VICE PRESIDENT Biden,
In this moment when a pandemic, an economic contraction, and protests against racism have combined to trigger national self-reflection, you have an opportunity to lead us forward to a better America, one that comes closer to the nation’s ideals than ever before. I am one of millions of Americans looking to you for new approaches to government and leadership. We are counting on you to reject the old ways that brought us to this point.
One of the policy areas that demands a new approach is technology. New technologies like facial recognition and artificial intelligence have been plagued by racial and gender bias, with particular harm in areas like law enforcement, job hiring, and mortgage applications. Internet platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter have amplified hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories, undermining our politics, our pandemic response, and the safety of our citizens. More than 1,000 marketers have joined the #StopHateForProfit campaign, agreeing to pause their advertising on Facebook for a month or more to protest the amplification of hate. In addition, many companies in Silicon Valley have been accused of racial and gender bias relative to employees, most recently Facebook, where an employee and two applicants filed a complaint of alleged racial bias. For all its past contributions to our nation, Silicon Valley now has issues with culture, business models, and business practices that require government intervention.