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Elizabeth Warren Declares War on Big Tech

Presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren aims to help smaller businesses compete with her proposal to reduce the political and economic power of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced on Medium on Friday her intention for “big, structural change” to the tech sector  if she’s elected president in 2020. Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said that her administration would break up tech giants Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Her broad plan proposes ways to reduce tech giants’ political and economic power, prioritizing ways to allow smaller businesses to compete in the marketplace. She would pass legislation saying that companies that make more than $25 billion annually from services such as Google Search, Amazon Marketplace and Google Ad Exchange would be designated as “platform utilities.” They would be barred from sharing data with third parties or owning a company that uses their platforms, which would stop Google and Amazon from prioritizing their own products in search results.

Warren also said she would appoint regulators who would use existing antitrust laws to undo mergers. For example, Amazon’s ownership of Whole Foods, Facebook’s ownership of Instagram and Google’s ownership of smart home tool manufacturer Nest would be undone.

Warren wrote in the Medium post:

I want a government that makes sure everybody — even the biggest and most powerful companies in America — plays by the rules. And I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor.

Julia Salazar, a New York State senator and democratic socialist, said in a statement that she supported the proposal. “I’m glad to see the dangers of monopolistic market power being taken seriously by a leading presidential candidate,” she said, adding, “Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other pro-Amazon politicians need to see the danger of sublimating all facets of our daily lives into a single all-encompassing company, which is clearly Amazon’s business model.”

The proposal would apply to Apple as well.

Brian Feldman, a writer at New York Magazine, said the proposal could allow for more government accountability in the tech sector. “At the very least, it might force tech companies to make some disclosures, if not publicly, at least to regulators, about how their systems work,” he said. Opaque algorithms purport to be fair, but they are known to show the bias of the people that build them. “Some adjudication of whether these ‘objective’ systems are unfair would be helpful,” Feldman said.

Warren explained the way large tech companies often wield their power:

With fewer competitors entering the market, the big tech companies do not have to compete as aggressively in key areas like protecting our privacy. And some of these companies have grown so powerful that they can bully cities and states into showering them with massive taxpayer handouts in exchange for doing business, and can act—in the words of Mark Zuckerberg—“more like a government than a traditional company.”

Naomi LaChance
Blogger / Editorial Assistant
Naomi LaChance has written for local newspapers such as the Berkshire Eagle and the Poughkeepsie Journal as well as national outlets including NPR, the Intercept, TYT Network and the Huffington Post. Her…
Naomi LaChance

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