The rise of Facebook, Google, and Amazon to become the most valuable and well-known companies in the world, while inspiring, is also a story that highlights why the government must break up monopolies and promote competitive markets, said US senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren in a statement.
She 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.
Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. 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 wrote, adding that her administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition — including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
Warren said her administration would take two major steps:
1. Passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that platform; 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 would be designated as “platform utilities.”
These companies would be prohibited from owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform. Platform utilities would be required to meet a standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users. Platform utilities would not be allowed to transfer or share data with third parties.
For smaller companies (those with annual global revenue of between $90 million and $25 billion), their platform utilities would be required to meet the same standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users, but would not be required to structurally separate from any participant on the platform.
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.
2. Appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers. These regulators would be people who are committed to using existing tools to unwind anti-competitive mergers, including:
- Amazon: Whole Foods; Zappos
- Facebook: WhatsApp; Instagram
- Google: Waze; Nest; DoubleClick
Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market — which will put pressure on bigtech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy, Warren said.
These changes would result in an internet in which “small businesses would have a fair shot to sell their products on Amazon without the fear of Amazon pushing them out of business. Google couldn’t smother competitors by demoting their products on Google Search. Facebook would face real pressure from Instagram and WhatsApp to improve the user experience and protect our privacy. Tech entrepreneurs would have a fighting chance to compete against the tech giants.”
In addition, Warren discussed data ownership and distribution issues: “we must give people more control over how their personal information is collected, shared, and sold — and do it in a way that doesn’t lock in massive competitive advantages for the companies that already have a ton of our data. We must help America’s content creators — from local newspapers and national magazines to comedians and musicians — keep more of the value their content generates, rather than seeing it scooped up by companies like Google and Facebook. And we must ensure that Russia — or any other foreign power — can’t use Facebook or any other form of social media to influence our elections.