In the weeks since his inauguration, there has been much discussion about President Trump’s relationship with the media. Rightly so. Media is not alone in feeling the affects of the chaotic political climate that we are currently experiencing. The ramifications are also clear in tech, where companies have struggled to balance politics and business, even as the two intersect one another like never before.
Silicon Valley and the Travel Ban
A number of leading figures in Silicon Valley, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, voiced their dislike of Trump’s travel ban against people from seven muslim-majority countries.
In an email to Apple staff obtained by Recode back in January, Mr. Cook said: “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do. I’ve heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued yesterday restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. I share your concerns. It is not a policy we support.”
Speaking at Glasgow University a couple of weeks later, Cook quoted one his idols, Martin Luther King. He seemed to be urging others to speak out. “Dr King said something so incredible, it wouldn’t be the actions of people that would be the problem, it would be the appalling silence of the good people. I think that’s a lesson to all of us. If we stand and say nothing, it’s as if we agree. We become a part of it,” Cook said.
You can add into this difficult mix the possibility that US Customs may begin asking foreigners for the passwords to their social media accounts as part of a new vetting process. Appearing before House Committee on Homeland Security, new Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said: “We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say? If they don’t want to cooperate then you don’t come in.”
Data privacy, even in cases relating to terrorism, is something that Apple has fought previous US governments on. It’s also a subject that both interests liberal-leaning Silicon Valley and has the potential for harming business for U.S. tech companies.
Apple the outlier
Apple, then, is something of an outlier among many major corporations. It has a history of speaking out on a variety of political and social issues. For many, owning Apple products is arguably as much about expressing a set of values as it is owning a phone or a laptop. After-all, this is the company that always pitched itself as the anti-establishment rebels with that advert.
The company is also big enough that it has some cover. It’s not likely any President would do anything that really threatens Apple in any major way.
Other companies, though, are in a more difficult position. They are trying to maintain lines of communication with an administration many—but not all—oppose. Senior Valley figures have been pictured in meetings with the new President, as shown in the photo above. Access to any president is important for business, and this hasn’t changed just because there’s a new president. At the same time, though, a revamped Executive Order on immigration on its way. That’s likely to raise a ruckus from Silicon Valley again.
All of which speaks to the difficulty Apple and the rest of the tech world are having and will continue to have in navigating the new waters of Donald Trump’s presidency.