US presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren vows to break up big tech

11 Mar 2019176 Views

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someone

Elizabeth Warren at a Democrat convention. Image: TPOphoto/Depositphotos

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someone

Elizabeth Warren believes Apple has the same antitrust issues as Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has ambitions to curb the power of big tech companies and told a crowd in New York at the weekend that she was “sick of freeloading billionaires”.

The US Democrat candidate has proposed breaking up large tech giants such as Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google if she is elected to the US presidency in 2020.

‘They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit and tilted the playing field against everyone else’
– ELIZABETH WARREN

The key to this would be a regulatory plan that would aim to promote competition, safeguard small businesses, reverse some major mergers and stop companies from competing on their own platforms. For example, one such deal she would reverse would be Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods.

Public utility argument

In a blogpost last week Warren wrote of tech giants: “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit and tilted the playing field against everyone else.

“And, in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.”

Warren’s plan calls for any company that runs a market that makes more than $25bn to be classed as a platform utility, one that should not be used by these companies to sell their own product.

For example, Amazon would not be able to sell Amazon Basics products on the Amazon retail store, Google would not be able to promote its own products in Google Search, and Facebook would have to split apart from Instagram and WhatsApp.

She also had some words to say about Apple in an interview at SXSW with The Verge: “Apple, you’ve got to break it apart from their App Store. It’s got to be one or the other. Either they run the platform or they play in the store. They don’t get to do both at the same time.”

Warren is one of 14 Democrats contesting for the US presidential race in 2020 and it remains to be seen how the Massachusetts senator will fare. But her observations speak volumes about the growing sense of displacement in the US economy, the disappearance of a middle class and the remoteness of the titans of Silicon Valley from the plight of ordinary people, all the while profiting from their information.

The idea of a public utility label for internet platforms isn’t new and extends back to a 2017 Yale Law Review article entitled The Amazon Paradox, which is often credited with kicking off a wave of antitrust energy directed at Silicon Valley, according to Bloomberg.

Warren, who will be running against Bernie Sanders for the Democrats’ nomination, has come out fighting against tech and it will be interesting to see if other presidential hopefuls use the same tack.

Elizabeth Warren at a Democrat convention. Image: TPOphoto/Depositphotos

John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist who served as editor of Siliconrepublic.com for 17 years.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com