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Six Big Technology Questions for President Trump

We know very few specifics about our next leader’s stance on many technology policies.
November 9, 2016

The long road to the White House is over, and now it’s time to put the political theater behind us and focus on policy. Donald Trump said very little on the campaign trail about the issues we care most about here at MIT Technology Review. So now it’s time to ask about them.

Dear President-elect Trump:

Even if you pull out of the Paris Agreement, will you admit that climate change is not a hoax and do something about it?

President Obama made important strides on climate policy, and it will be dangerous if that momentum does not continue. Not only are you on record calling climate change a creation of the Chinese, you’ve said you’ll pull out of the Paris climate agreement, cut all federal climate change funding, and get rid of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Will you really ignore climate change?

Will you overturn the net neutrality rules?

You’ve said next to nothing about commercial Internet policy, other than tweeting a bizarre opposition to the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality regulations, which classify Internet access providers as utilities and banned the practice of charging more for Internet service that prioritizes an individual company’s traffic. Obama’s FCC also recently enacted relatively strict privacy rules on ISPs. There is speculation you might try to overturn those rules—will you? More broadly, what will you do to foster competition among Internet technology companies?

What exactly is your stance on encryption and digital privacy?

Nearly a year after the attack in San Bernardino, California, which set the stage for a public standoff between Apple and the FBI over an encrypted iPhone, the debate over whether the government should impose restrictions on the use of encryption technology is still ongoing.

Congressional action on encryption stalled earlier this year, but contentious issues surrounding data privacy and security are likely to be front-and-center again when you take office. Presidential leadership will shape the discussion. In February you called for a boycott of Apple products after it would not coӧperate with the FBI. Should we expect more of the same?

Will you support a tax holiday that encourages tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft to bring to the U.S. the hundreds of millions of dollars they are holding with overseas subsidiaries?

You’ve advocated for a “repatriation” holiday that would allow companies to pay 10 percent instead of 35 percent tax on cash they bring back to the U.S. What restrictions might you place on this to ensure the money goes to capital expenditures, R&D, and other purposes beyond share buybacks and executive compensation?

Will you encourage and fund any laboratory innovation?

You’ve not revealed your specific policy stances toward federal research and development funding, a crucial driver of innovation. You’ve also vaguely implied that near-term infrastructure problems are more important than further out things like space exploration.

We expect you to cut clean energy R&D funding, forfeiting President Obama’s international pledge to double that sum by 2020, and to discontinue the administration’s initiatives to advance research in personalized medicine and cancer. But will you do anything at all to stimulate the basic innovations we need to confront societal problems like climate change, disease, famine, poverty, security, and injustice?  

How are you going to force Apple to make its devices in the U.S.?

You’ve said repeatedly that the trade agreements made by the U.S. in the recent past have sent too many jobs overseas and you would work to unwind them. You even said you would force Apple to manufacture its iPhone entirely in the U.S., a move that would cause the price of the popular device to spike. How will you help U.S. corporations remain competitive in this global economy if they are forced to manufacture their goods domestically at a higher cost?

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