In a blog post published on Medium, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts who is running for president in 2020, argued that all three companies have become far too dominant. “As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people,” Warren wrote. Breaking them up, she added, would “restore the balance of power in our democracy, promote competition, and ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last.”
Warren’s proposal has two main elements. One is ensuring that regulators are committed to blocking or reversing “illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers,” she wrote, citing Amazon buying Whole Foods, Facebook’s acquiring WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google controlling Waze, Nest and DoubleClick. The second is legislation requiring the tech giants to spin off holdings like Amazon’s marketplace and Google search from the same companies’ business on those platforms.
The 2020 presidential candidate published the Medium post as she was traveling to New York’s Long Island City neighborhood, the area where Amazon had planned to build a new headquarters until abruptly pulling out last month. Warren, who spearheaded the creation of the U.S. Consumer Protection Agency under President Obama, sided with Amazon opponents such as first-term Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who led protests against the billions in tax breaks promised to the company in exchange for creating 25,000 jobs. Warren has labeled the incentives “taxpayer bribes.”
Warren’s big-tech breakup plan is one of the strongest initiatives introduced by any 2020 candidate. Technology and tech policy is sure to be a significant issue in the campaign. The first half of the Donald Trump presidency has seen the president spar with Amazon and charge Google and Facebook with anti-conservative bias. Last year Facebook founder-CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his top deputy, Sheryl Sandburg, each testified on Capitol Hill about the company’s handling of user data and lack of privacy controls.
The privacy issue took another turn for Facebook earlier this week, when Zuckerberg announced the company would introduce features like “disappearing” messages across all three of the company’s social platforms: Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. Zuckerberg, who famously declared in 2010 that privacy was “no longer a societal norm,” said the new approach would enhance customer privacy, but many politicians, tech industry observers and activists disagreed.
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