By Chuck Ross
At least 14 people who President-elect Joe Biden has picked to serve either in his administration or to advise his transition have worked for the Big Tech firms that cracked down earlier this week on President Donald Trump and a social media site popular with conservatives.
Apple’s top lobbyist was a chief adviser to the Biden transition team. A former Facebook executive will serve as staff director in the Biden White House, and a former Twitter executive will serve as chief spokesperson for the National Security Council under Biden.
Current and former executives at those firms and two others, Google and Amazon, fill out other positions in the incoming Biden administration, or his transition team.
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The five tech giants all took action this week against Trump and Parler, the social media site, in response to riots at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Twitter permanently banned Trump over what it called violent rhetoric in the wake of riots at the U.S. Capitol building. Trump supporters breached the Capitol building to protest a vote to confirm Joe Biden as president.
Five people died in the mayhem, including U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. Ashli Babbit, a Trump supporter from San Diego, was also fatally shot by a police officer while trying to enter a restricted area of the Capitol building.
Parler, a social media company popular with conservatives who have grown disenchanted with Twitter, was also targeted in a sweeping crackdown by the tech companies.
Apple and Google removed Parler from its app stores, meaning that users will not be able to access it on their iPhones or Samsung Galaxy phones.
Amazon took even more drastic measures, according to BuzzFeed News. On Sunday the tech giant cut Parler off from its cloud hosting service, Amazon Web Services, rendering the site “dark” until it finds another web host.
Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, appeared to celebrate the removal of his company’s chief competitor in a tweet on Saturday night. He posted a photo showing that Parler was no longer the most popular app in Google Play’s store, as it had been before its removal.
— jack (@jack) January 10, 2021
While many Republicans have criticized Trump and his mob of supporters over the Capitol riots, the social media purge has stoked concerns that the major tech companies have too much control over communications platforms.
Conservatives are especially concerned that they will be targeted even further under a Biden administration due to the tech companies’ closer ties to Democrats.
There is no indication that the Biden transition team was involved in the tech companies’ decisions to suspend Trump or Parler.
Reuters reported last month that major tech firms like Amazon, Facebook, and Google were lobbying the Biden transition team to place executives in various administration roles.
According to Reuters, the executives were seeking positions in the Commerce, State, and Defense Departments, as well as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs.
In September, Politico reported that Biden tapped Cynthia Hogan, Apple’s top lobbyist, to serve full time on his transition team. Hogan is a longtime adviser to Biden, having worked for him when he served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Biden has hired at least one Facebook and one Twitter executive to serve in his White House.
Jessica Hertz, who was a director for Facebook’s regulatory team, will serve as White House staff director. Emily Horne, who was head of global policy communications for Twitter, will be the director of press and spokesperson for the National Security Council, according to the Biden-Harris transition website.
David Recordon, a former developer for Facebook, will serve as director of technology for the Office of Management and Administration. Austin Lin, a former program manager at Facebook, will serve as Recordon’s deputy.
Jeff Zients, a former Facebook board member who served in the Obama administration, is Biden’s COVID-19 czar.
Tony Blinken, who Biden tapped as his secretary of state, provided advisory services to Facebook through his consulting firm, WestExec Partners, according to financial disclosures he submitted to the Office of Government Ethics.
Executives from the big tech firms have also joined Biden’s transition to help review nominees to fill spots at federal agencies in the Biden administration, according to a database maintained by the Biden-Harris team.
Tom Sullivan and Mark Schwartz, who are executives at Amazon, are on the agency review teams for the Department of State and Office of Management and Budget, respectively.
Deon Scott, a program manager in Google’s Global Business Operations, is on the review team for the Department of Homeland Security.
Three Facebook executives, Zaid Zaid, Rachel Lieber, and Christopher Upperman are on the transition review team. They are advising nominations for the Department of State, Intelligence Community, and Small Business Administration, respectively.
Reuters reported that Erskine Bowles, another former Facebook board member, is a Biden transition team adviser.
A lobbying firm co-founded by Biden’s top White House counselor, Steve Ricchetti, also inked a lobbying deal with Amazon on Nov. 13. The firm, Ricchetti Incorporated, will lobby the White House and Congress on health care issues for Amazon, which is forming a health care business.
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