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Mounting 'Backlash' Against Tech Seen By Top Startup Investors

Mounting 'Backlash' Against Tech Seen By Top Startup Investors
Decrying the power that companies such as Facebook Inc had amassed and call for a redistribution of wealth, two of the technology industry’s top startup investors took to the stage at a conference on Wednesday.
Widespread discontent over income inequality had put wealthy technology companies in the crosshairs and helped elect U.S. President Donald Trump, said Sam Altman, president of startup accelerator Y Combinator, and Bill Maris, who founded Alphabet Inc’s venture capital arm and now runs venture fund Section 32.
“I do know that the tech backlash is going to be strong,” said Altman. “We have more and more concentrated power and wealth.”
Doubling their market capitalization in the last three years to more than $3 trillion, Alphabet, Apple Inc, Amazon Inc, Microsoft Corp and Facebook are the so-called Big Five technology companies which have grown both in size and influence all across the world as well as in the U.S. Significant wealth during the latest tech boom has been amassed by the Silicon Valley broadly.
On the final day of The Wall Street Journal DLive technology conference in Southern California, Altman and Maris spoke out on the issue.
The investor duo said that an example of the immense power the social media company has amassed is Facebook’s role in facilitating what U.S. intelligence agencies have identified as Russian interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election.
“The companies that used to be fun and disruptive and interesting and benevolent are now disrupting our elections,” Maris said.
Altman said people “are understandably uncomfortable with that.”
Limiting what personal information Facebook and others can collect, he expects more demands from both the public and policy makers on data privacy, said Altman, who unequivocally rebuffed rumors that he would run for governor of California next year.
Breaking up of the big technology companies by the regulators would have good reasons, Maris said.
“These companies are more powerful than AT&T ever was,” he said.
470 fake accounts and pages were created that spread polarizing views on political and social issues and $100,000 had been spent on political ads by an operation likely based in Russia, Facebook said last month it had discovered.
However, on the issue of how to best create a strategy or a policy so that it can be ensured that would be able to accomplish a redistribution of wealth, there were very few details that were offered by Altman and Maris. Simplification of the American the tax code and shorter term limits for elected officials were proposed by Maris. A poverty-fighting proposal in which all residents would receive a regular, unconditional sum of money from the government, also known as basic income has been earlier advocated by Altman.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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