There seems to be a skepticism among some conservatives about the political leaning of big tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google. In fact, according to a recent Pew Research poll, 85% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents believe that social media companies favor liberal views over conservative ones.
This skepticism has led some conservatives to believe Silicon Valley might not be fair towards their political views. We’ve heard this from some conservatives, including politicians, media personalities and activists. The facts, however, suggest that tech companies are more politically balanced than some have suggested.
In 2016, Donald Trump shocked the political world by winning the presidency after running one of the most unconventional campaigns in history. Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, played a big role in that campaign – and may even have been instrumental in its ultimate victory.
Trump’s use of Twitter was one of the defining features of his candidacy. In 140 characters or less, he was able to dominate the news cycle, spread his message, and outmaneuver his opponents as no one had before. According to one study, Trump garnered three times more online interest than Hillary Clinton, and had 4 million more followers. While Twitter isn’t the only reason Trump won, it was certainly a large contributing factor.
Facebook, too, provided indispensable for the Trump victory. The Trump digital team, led by Brad Parscale, deftly used Facebook to create highly targeted, highly engaging advertising and promotional campaigns. As a result, they were able to reach more people, more effectively, for a fraction of what the Clinton campaign spent. That wouldn’t have been possible without Facebook.
2016 wasn’t an exception; in fact, social media has been instrumental in conservative electoral victories for years. Consider 2010, when the Tea Party movement grew from a humble gathering of grassroots conservatives into a nationwide movement that swept conservative Republicans into both houses of Congress. This movement has helped transform our nation for the better, and they did it by using the tools of the internet and social media. Tech companies would not have let this happen if they were as biased against conservatives as many believe.
It’s hard to imagine the tech industry would universally target conservatives, considering many major tech industry leaders are conservatives themselves. According to The Guardian, there are quite a few: there’s Paypal founder Peter Thiel, who prominently spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention in support of the president; HP’s Carly Fiorina and Ebay’s Meg Whitman both ran for office as Republican candidates; Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Intel’s Craig Barrett, Dell’s Michael Dell and AOL’s Tim Armstrong, have all been major donors to Republicans. Also, some of the largest tech associations are led by Republicans, including Internet Association’s Michael Beckerman, and Consumer Technology Association’s Gary Shapiro.
In that same Guardian piece, Aaron Ginn of the libertarian Lincoln Network says “While overall the Bay Area is of a progressive persuasion, the actual people who work in technology are not [. . .] Silicon Valley technologists … are predominantly libertarian with small government values outside the environment and healthcare.”
While Silicon Valley may not be a Republican bastion, we conservatives have more allies in the tech industry than we think.
Bias against conservatives is widespread in many institutions, so it’s understandable that conservatives would be wary of the technology sector too. But perhaps we should take a step back and consider all that the internet means for conservatives. It’s a place where we can get news outside of the notoriously biased mainstream media. It’s a place where we can freely speak our beliefs and share ideas, reach new people, and grow our movement.
Social media platforms have helped elect Donald Trump and scores of other conservative champions, and they’ve helped us to take our movement to new heights. Maybe Silicon Valley isn’t as biased as we think.
Zach Almond is the former Chairman of the North Carolina Federation of College Republicans and the founder of Uwharrie Consulting.