As Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren continues her campaign for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, she has recently announced a new proposal to split tech giants, such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google, all in an effort to regulate each platform.
Per a report from Variety, Warren aims to introduce legislation that would designate certain tech companies as “platform utilities.” As part of her plan, which is outlined on the online blog site Medium, regulators would be tasked with splitting up massive mergers within the tech world. Such mergers include Facebook’s ownership and control of popular image posting and social media platform Instagram, as well as Amazon’s recent purchase of supermarket chain Whole Foods.
Similarly, tech companies would be prohibited from controlling a platform and actively participating on said platforms. For example, under Warren’s proposed plans, Google’s advertisement and business exchanges would have to be separated, and the company’s search engine would have to be rolled off into its own, separate entity. Utilities would be defined as companies with a revenue of $25 billion or more that provide an online marketplace or third-party exchange. For example, Amazon’s own line of products — Amazon Basics — would need to be separated from Amazon’s own platform.
As Ars Technica notes, Sen. Warren’s plan would require approval from Congress, seeing as how these changes would be made through new legislation.
Facebook, Amazon, and Google have vast power over our economy and democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition and tilted the playing field in their favor. Time to break up these companies so they don’t have so much power over everyone else. #BreakUpBigTech https://t.co/2rWT0wJ8vD— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 8, 2019
Warren’s post on Medium explains how companies such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon have become too big for their own good, and how the U.S. government should act to split them up, not unlike actions taken against Microsoft in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“Twenty-five years ago, Facebook, Google, and Amazon didn’t exist. Now they are among the most valuable and well-known companies in the world. It’s a great story — but also one that highlights why the government must break up monopolies and promote competitive markets,” Warren wrote.
“In the 1990s, Microsoft — the tech giant of its time — was trying to parlay its dominance in computer operating systems into dominance in the new area of web browsing. The federal government sued Microsoft for violating anti-monopoly laws and eventually reached a settlement. The government’s antitrust case against Microsoft helped clear a path for Internet companies like Google and Facebook to emerge.”
Warren’s proposal is not the first time a government official has targeted big tech companies. As Variety notes, Steve Bannon has previously considered regulating Facebook and Google as utilities. Similarly, President Donald Trump has criticized tech companies in the past, arguing problems with antitrust, though it’s worth mentioning that some of his complaints have been made alongside claims that certain platforms have unfairly treated conservative politicians.