RSN Fundraising Banner
Sen. Elizabeth Warren Unveils Plan to Break Up Amazon, Facebook and Google in Ambitious Campaign Pledge
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=49239"><span class="small">Tony Romm and Brian Fung, The Washington Post</span></a>   
Friday, 08 March 2019 13:46

Excerpt: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren pledged Friday to take aim at Amazon, Facebook and Google if she is elected president in 2020, breaking apart each of the big tech companies and introducing sweeping new regulation of Silicon Valley."

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks at a campaign rally in Dubuque, Iowa. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty)
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks at a campaign rally in Dubuque, Iowa. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren Unveils Plan to Break Up Amazon, Facebook and Google in Ambitious Campaign Pledge

By Tony Romm and Brian Fung, The Washington Post

08 March 19


en. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) pledged Friday to take aim at Amazon, Facebook and Google if she is elected president in 2020, breaking apart each of the big tech companies and introducing sweeping new regulation of Silicon Valley.

The proposal marks the most ambitious and aggressive effort targeting the tech industry offered by any Democratic contender for the White House, and it could put pressure on other presidential aspirants to offer similar plans for more aggressive tech oversight.

“To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies,” Warren said.

Warren’s proposal has two key elements. First, the Democratic lawmaker said her administration would appoint “regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers,” including Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, Facebook’s tie-up with WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google’s ownership of Waze, Nest and DoubleClick.

Second, Warren said she would push legislation that would label key services — such as Amazon’s marketplace for goods and Google search — as “platform utilities,” which would have to be spun off from those tech giants’ other businesses.

Her plan primarily targets companies with annual revenue over $90 million, and it would embolden federal and state regulators to issue steep fines and other penalties that harm competition or consumers. Even Web users could sue Amazon, Facebook and Google if they violated Warren’s proposed federal rules.

Warren’s blueprint — detailed in a Medium post — comes as she prepares to speak to supporters in New York’s Long Island City neighborhood, where Amazon initially sought to construct one of two new headquarters. The company ultimately withdrew from the city amid staunch local opposition and fierce criticism from national figures such as Warren, who felt Amazon had received “taxpayer bribes” from New York.

“We must ensure that today’s tech giants do not crowd out potential competitors, smother the next generation of great tech companies, and wield so much power that they can undermine our democracy,” Warren said in the Medium post.

Amazon, Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

For now, Warren’s plan illustrates the tech industry’s political fall from grace, as policymakers around the world begin to confront the ills posed by Silicon Valley — from the job losses threatened by the rise of automation to the fast spread of falsehoods online. Privacy scandals, fears of election interference and rapid consolidation have soured even the industry’s historically close ties with Democrats in Washington in recent years.

Previously, Democratic presidential candidates jockeyed to be seen as digitally savvy in the hopes of courting young voters and raising critical cash from tech moguls’ deep pockets. Then-candidate Barack Obama even appeared at Google headquarters during the early days of his 2008 campaign.

More than a decade later, though, the party’s most prominent national figures have become some of Silicon Valley’s fiercest critics, responding to mounting concerns about the effects of major Internet platforms on the economy and even democracy itself.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), another 2020 presidential hopeful, broadly has decried the “major monopoly problem” in the United States — particularly with big tech. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), meanwhile, has tangled specifically with Amazon over its business practices, particularly its treatment of workers. While neither they nor their peers have issued a plan as aggressive as Warren’s new pledge, tech experts in Washington said the party writ large had set its sights on the tech industry.

"I don't believe this will be an out-of-the-mainstream proposal in 2020,” said Rob Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank where representatives from Apple, Microsoft, Google and other tech companies sit on the board of directors.

Calling Warren’s proposal “appalling,” he said of the tech industry’s ties to Democrats: “Not only is the honeymoon over, but they’re in divorce court.”

Email This Page your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

0 # Caliban 2019-03-08 14:21
First impression? Warren's proposal seems much too aggressive for the supposed sins of the tech industries.

A better target for forced break-ups and higher levels of regulation? The global coal and petroleum industries.
+4 # tpmco 2019-03-09 13:14
I would add to your suggestions the banking/financi al sector and big media.
0 # lfeuille 2019-03-09 20:13
They all should be regulated. Warren has already been very clear about wanting to rein in the financial sector. Tech giants are just corporations with all the sins of such. Being in tech doesn't make them better than bankers. They are just as greedy.`

As for Big Media, thats tricky because of the first amendment.
0 # 1dfnslblty 2019-03-09 07:50
Great idea, and, it must be drafted with immense public support..
+2 # Yadayada 2019-03-09 12:47
Anyone interested in the ills brought by the GAFAM (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft), please have a look at "the age of surveillance capitalism" recently published by Shoshana Zuboff.
Just read the intro, and then if you are like me you just won't put it down.

Now when it comes to breaking them up, there are still laws on the books about cartels, why wouldn't they apply to the digital economy?

Yes, Caliban, coal and petroleum industries threaten our world and our democracies, as do the major banks who finance them.
But big tech monetizes predictions about our behavior and how to better predict our behavior than to cause it?
One could argue this is the end game of advertisement.
If it's free, then you are the product.

It's bad enough when we get pushed to buying stupid, useless or even harmful stuff.
Now we saw what happens when it's used to changing people's worldview and way of voting.
This goes against critical thinking, a requirement of actual democracy.
-1 # Caliban 2019-03-09 20:30
A fair point, Yada, if you believe people are actually losing their ability to think critically because of media tactics.

I am not sure we need to be so pessimistic, however. The people following media presentations of political debates most carefully will those who are still thinking their way through key issues -- not those waiting to have their biases confirmed.

In short, this important audience group are people who are actually cranking up their "critical thinking" skills higher to make serious judgements about what they are seeing and hearing through the media and not simply shutting down their thought processes because the TV is on.