The tech primary has officially begun. Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts running for president, has come out of the gates swinging on tech policy. Her big idea? Break up Facebook, Google, and Amazon.
In a Medium post titled “Here’s how we can break up Big Tech,” Warren lays out a case for using regulatory power to unwind several of the three company’s biggest mergers: separating Instagram from Facebook, for example, and Whole Foods and Zappos from Amazon.
Recalling antitrust cases ranging from Standard Oil to Microsoft, Warren plan involves legislation that would create a new designation: a ‘platform utility.’ Warren defines a platform utility as “companies with an annual global revenue of $25 billion or more and that offer to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties.”
These platform utilities would then be forbidden from “owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform.”
To clear up any doubt, Warren says that “Amazon Marketplace, Google’s ad exchange, and Google Search would be platform utilities under this law. Therefore, Amazon Marketplace and Basics, and Google’s ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be split apart. Google Search would have to be spun off as well.” Amazon Basics is a wide-ranging line of products made the Washington-based company.
On top of this new legislation’s Warren’s plan would use existing antitrust legislation to decouple several high-profile mergers from the last several years. The driving app Waze, for example, would be spun off from Google. Google has come under pressure for incorporating Waze’s notifications of DWI traps into Google Maps, noticeably by the NYPD. Although Google acquired Waze in 2013, the search company restructured in 2015 and itself became a subsidiary of a holding company known as Alphabet. Warren’s statement does not mention Alphabet.
Warren’s plan is the latest challenge thrown at the companies in the still nascent Democratic primary. Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, regularly takes shots at Amazon on the stump. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator, has tried to carve out tech reform as a niche issue, although with more of a focus on disinformation campaigns than on their corporate power. Other Democrats, like Ohio’s Tim Ryan, see companies like Amazon more favourably.
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics