Why Silicon Valley is so terrified of Donald Trump

Donald Trump has mastered technology when it comes to running a viral campaign on both Twitter and Facebook.

But when it comes to policies related to technology, Silicon Valley leaders have criticized the Republican presidential nominee for not being clear on what his agenda for the industry would be in office.

Trump has been endorsed by one tech luminary, Peter Thiel, but many others in the tech industry have called Trump a “danger to innovation.”

Here is why many in Silicon Valley feel so threatened by a Trump presidency:


More than 140 Silicon Valley leaders have signed an open letter against Trump, declaring him a “disaster for innovation”.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In a scathing letter, many Silicon Valley CEOs, investors and well-known tech figures (like Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, pictured above) slammed Trump.

“His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy  –  and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth,” the leaders wrote.


PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel has endorsed Trump, but it’s tough to find many other open Trump supporters in Silicon Valley.

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

During his speech at the Republican National Convention, Thiel said Trump was the only candidate to be honest about the country’s “economic decline.”

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich was supposed to host Trump for a dinner at his house but canceled at the last minute because it “turned into a fund-raiser.”

It’s not easy to find any other well-known tech figures who are openly supporting Trump. Some techies may be keeping their support secret.


Trump has never given the tech industry a bear hug, as other candidates trying to woo the wealthy tech donors have done.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

Given the lack of a clear Trump tech agenda, the tech industry has been left trying to read the tea leaves based on various comments Trump has made over the years. In many cases, the comments have left techies feeling uneasy.


Trump has called computers “a mixed bag” and thinks people should wean themselves off the internet.

Trump rarely uses email and it’s unclear how much he has actually used a computer though he is of course voracious on Twitter. (Whether he sends those tweets himself is another topic up for debate.)

After the Sony hacks in 2014, Trump said: “The internet and the whole computer age is really a mixed bag. It makes life easier in some ways, but in a lot of ways it makes it much more complex.”

To combat cyberattacks like the Sony hack, Trump argued that we must “wean ourself a little bit off the internet” and computers because there’s no safety on them anymore.

In an interview with The New York Times published Thursday, Trump said “cyber is the future” and he would consider engaging in cyberwarfare.


Trump has flip-flopped on the H1-B visa issue — a work visa that many tech companies rely on to get foreign talent — and attacked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for it.

On his official campaign website, Trump calls Marco Rubio “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator” and says “raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs will force companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the US, instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas.”

But as The Washington Post has detailed extensively, Trump has since flip-flopped multiple times. He has promised to “end the abuse” of the H-1B program despite having used it himself as an employer. And when it comes to Silicon Valley, Trump both supports taking measures to retain talented foreign workers while also making sure that it can’t be used to shut Americans out of the same jobs.


Trump wants to renegotiate “tech-friendly” trade agreements.

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Tom Pennington/Getty

One of Trump’s key campaign tenets is renegotiating US-China trade agreements to make free trade into “fair trade” and taking a hard look at Nafta (or rip it up entirely).

HP Enterprises CEO Meg Whitman has been outspoken on her position that Trump’s trade policies would damage her company.

“I think his policies around free trade will be damaging to businesses as a whole,” said Whitman, a Republican, in an interview with CNBC. “We have to be the most cost-effective competitor in the world. We’ve got to compete against Huawei, against Lenovo … so, we’ve got to be incredibly cost effective.”


He has vowed to force Apple to make the iPhone in the US.

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Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

“I’m going to bring jobs back,” Trump said in March. “I’m going to get Apple to start making their computers and their iPhones on our land, not in China.”

It is unclear how Trump would force Apple to shift to US production for the iPhone, which is assembled at third-party facilities in China. But many analysts think the plan would carry significant economic and logistical disadvantages for Apple.


Trump argued that Apple should unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter and called for a boycott against the company’s products until then.

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REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Trump called for a boycott of Apple in February in light of the company’s reluctance to help authorities hack into a company-issued iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters.

“I use both iPhone & Samsung. If Apple doesn’t give info to authorities on the terrorists I’ll only be using Samsung until they give info,” Trump tweeted. (He has also been paid to speak at Samsung corporate events.)

“The phone is owned by government,” he added at the time. “What are they doing? Open up the phones. We have to be smart. We have to look and see what’s going on. Let Apple open up the phones so we find out where these threats are coming from.”


He wants Bill Gates and Silicon Valley to work with him on “closing up the internet” to help stop ISIS.

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Trump is in favor of “closing part of the internet where ISIS is” to try to stop the spread of online radicalism.

In a speech in Texas in December, Trump ignored concerns that blocking part of the internet would be an infringement on free speech. And he wanted Bill Gates to help him.

“We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening,” Trump said at the time. “We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some way. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people.”


He thinks net neutrality will target conservative media and called it a “top down power grab.”

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Trump is against the net-neutrality rules laid out by the Federal Communications Commission, which ban companies from slowing or blocking internet content to consumers.

In November 2014, Trump had tweeted that President Obama’s support of net neutrality was another “top down power grab” and claimed that it would “target conservative media.”

While net neutrality has nothing to do with the content on the internet, Trump compared it to the fairness doctrine, an FCC rule that forced to broadcasters to include opposing views on controversial issues of public importance.

It’s presumed that any FCC chair appointed by Trump if he’s elected would work to overturn the legislation.


Trump errs on the side of mass surveillance and restoring the Patriot Act.

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REUTERS/Mark Blinch

After Edward Snowden leaked classified documents that exposed the extent of the National Security Agency’s data collection, the NSA repealed the act that made it possible to mass-collect phone metadata.

Trump, though, would “err on the side of security” and has said he supports the NSA’s ability to hold bulk data.

“When you have the world looking at us and would like to destroy us as quickly as possible, I err on the side of security, and so that’s the way it is, that’s the way I’ve been, and some people like that, frankly, and some people don’t like that,” Trump said in an interview on the Hugh Hewitt show. “I assume when I pick up my telephone people are listening to my conversations anyway, if you want to know the truth. It’s pretty sad commentary, but I err on the side of security.”


He has attacked Amazon and Jeff Bezos, accusing Bezos of using The Washington Post to keep taxes down at Amazon.

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Blue Orgin

Trump has repeatedly attacked Amazon’s CEO for his purchase of The Washington Post, accusing Bezos of using the paper to control politicians in Washington so Amazon isn’t taxed more.

“I have respect for Jeff Bezos, but he bought The Washington Post to have political influence,” Trump said during a speech in Texas in February. “Believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”

“Amazon is getting away with murder tax-wise,” Trump reiterated in May. “He’s using The Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed.”

Bezos responded by offering to send Trump to space on the rocket he’s building.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.


His comments against women, Mexicans, Muslims, and the LGBT community continue to infuriate industry leaders who have compared him to Hitler.

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Sam Altman, the president of the startup incubator Y Combinator, wrote that Trump was “irresponsible in the way dictators are.”

“Trump’s casual racism, misogyny, and conspiracy theories are without precedent among major presidential nominees,” Altman wrote. “To anyone familiar with the history of Germany in the 1930s, it’s chilling to watch Trump in action. Though I know intellectually it’s easy in hard economic times to rile people up with a hatred of outsiders, it’s still surprising to watch this happen right in front of us.”

Whitman, the HP Enterprise CEO, reportedly compared Trump to leaders like Hitler and Mussolini during a Republican retreat.


But for the most part, Trump hasn’t made his views on tech crystal clear, compared with Hillary Clinton — a move that makes the tech industry fear the unknown.

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Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Whereas Clinton has laid out many of her stances on the tech industry, Trump has said little beyond his main campaign platforms.

For instance, Trump hasn’t commented on the rise of the on-demand economy with companies like Uber and what it could mean for the labor force. He hasn’t issued strong statements on either patent reform or topics like broadband access and trying to get more Americans online.

“Donald Trump articulates few policies beyond erratic and contradictory pronouncements,” the tech leaders wrote in their open letter.