March 26, 2019

Elizabeth Warren vows to break up tech giants if elected president

08 March 2019, 10:41 | Hattie Nash

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Boys bye

The great divide: In a blog post, Warren, a Democratic senator from MA, said that if she wins office in 2020, she's going to push for legislation that labels companies running online marketplaces with revenue of $25 billion or more as "platform utilities". Warren wants to prevent tech companies from being participants on their own platforms as marketplaces - Amazon wouldn't be allowed to sell its own products on, for example. "And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation", said Warren in a post on Medium.

"That means we break Facebook away from Instagram and WhatsApp, Amazon away from Whole Foods, Google away from Nest, and more", Warren wrote in a campaign email.

She later takes a swing at Amazon's HQ2 sweepstakes: "Some of these companies have grown so powerful that they can bully cities and states into showering them with massive taxpayer handouts in exchange for doing business".

Warren pointed to Amazon Marketplace, Google's ad exchange, and Google Search as examples of platform utilities.

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The Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represents the three firms cited by Warren, disputed her analysis.

It's Warren's latest effort to shape the policy agenda for the rest of the Democratic presidential primary, coming after earlier announcements of a "wealth tax" plan on households with high net worth and a universal child care proposal.

"We need legislation specifically targeted to enhance competition on digital platforms so that there is a real opportunity for new, innovative competitors to succeed", said Charlotte Slaiman, the group's policy counsel.

Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a think tank that follows the sector, said the plan "is not pro-consumer".

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Wooooh!' As opposed to saying, these are actually big media companies and your information is a commodity.

Calling the proposal "smart and practical", Open Markets Institute fellow Matt Stoller said it also showed that it's been a "good week for anti-monopolists".

"Keep in mind the Sherman Act is not just a civil statute but a criminal one". They've bulldozed competition and tilted the playing field in their favor.

Facebook has always been in the crosshairs of politicians, but Democrats have been frustrated by Republican-led hearings that they feel did not address the breadth of the company's power and whether it is using it responsibly. For instance, Columbia law professor Tim Wu published The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age in November, which argues that monopolies and their near relations are the defining feature of the current USA economy. "While big tech companies could present concern, that's not enough for an antitrust case".

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