March 8, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez
Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator who announced her 2020 presidential run last month, has released a proposal to break up tech giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook ahead of her scheduled appearance at an organizing event in Long Island City tonight—the neighborhood where Amazon’s now-scrapped campus plans played out.
Warren published her plan on a Medium post, and said that while Facebook, Google and Amazon have quickly grown to become the most valuable and well-known companies in the world, their sizes highlight “why the government must break up monopolies and promote competitive markets.”
“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” she wrote. “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.”
The senator referenced a 1990s lawsuit the federal government lodged against Microsoft that resulted in a settlement. The case was widely seen as helping clear the way for companies like Google and Facebook to come about.
“The story demonstrates why promoting competition is so important: it allows new, groundbreaking companies to grow and thrive — which pushes everyone in the marketplace to offer better products and services,” she wrote.
But the landscape has since changed, her post reads, where tech giants have grown by using mergers and proprietary marketplaces, among other actions, to limit competition and subsequently wield immense influence and control that she says threaten to undermine business, innovation and democracy.
Warren vowed, if elected to office, that she would make significant structural changes to the tech sector through two initiatives—one that would involve legislation to limit a given company’s scope, and another to appoint regulators to unwind existing mergers.
Under the legislation, tech companies with an annual revenue of at least $25 billion that operate an online marketplace or platform would be prohibited from participating on that same platform. Amazon, for instance, would not be able to sell its “Basics” products on its own Marketplace under the proposed law.
Regulators under her administration would also unwind Amazon’s merger with Whole Foods and Zappos, and Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp and Instagram.
The plan, Warren said, wouldn’t solve the myriad issues with tech companies today, including how personal information is used; how content creators stay afloat with current revenue schemes; and social media used to influence elections.
“Those are each tough problems, but the benefit of taking these steps to promote competition is that it allows us to make some progress on each of these important issues too,” she said, adding that her outlined efforts would ultimately work to “protect the future of the internet.”
The senator’s proposal follows the collapse of Amazon’s plan to build corporate headquarters at Anable Basin. Warren, like many nationwide politicians that weighed in on the matter, was critical of the project, and said at the time news broke of canceled plans that “one of the wealthiest companies on the planet–just walked away from billions in taxpayer bribes, all because some elected officials in New York aren’t sucking up to them enough.”
“How long will be allow giant corporations to hold our democracy hostage?” she added.
Amazon, which hit $1 trillion in value last year, faced fierce opposition while its plans were still on the table, with opponents bashing the campus for a variety of reasons, ranging from the complex’s affect on strained area infrastructure, the nearly $3 billion in performance-based tax incentives it could receive as part of the project, and the company’s labor track record.
Warren is set to appear at The Arc, within the Kaufman Arts district, at 7 p.m. for a public campaign organizing event.