Senator Warren announced yesterday morning that she thinks we should break up the big tech monopolies. She focuses on Google, Facebook, and Amazon in particular, though there are obviously other companies that would also fit this description.
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.
One focus is on how companies use mergers and acquisitions to limit competition, like how Facebook snaps up every available messaging company. This seems pretty self-explanatory. The other main focus of her Medium post, which I find more interesting, is that companies which own networks should not be allowed to participate in those networks. This one’s a little less clear to the layperson, so she lays on some history.
But where the value of the company came from its network, reformers recognized that ownership of a network and participating on the network caused a conflict of interest. Instead of nationalizing these industries — as other countries did — Americans in the Progressive Era decided to ensure that these networks would not abuse their power by charging higher prices, offering worse quality, reducing innovation, and favoring some over others. We required a structural separation between the network and other businesses, and also demanded that the network offer fair and non-discriminatory service.
My administration would restore competition to the tech sector by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that 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.
This is an interesting idea! And it’s high time we had this conversation at a presidential-campaign level. (I’m sure this was eaten by various shitstorms in yesterday’s news, but still.)
She sort of talks about how we also need to deal with privacy, but it’s not included in this plan, which is fair. The post says the same about preventing foreign tampering. To me, the big thing that’s actually missing is how to handle the infrastructure platforms like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform. Those two service umbrellas undergird a great deal of the world’s technological infrastructure, including that of the American government. In the case of Amazon, they also provide most of the actual corporate profit, I believe. The cheapish, on-demand infrastructure they provide is actually pretty helpful to small innovators too.
Anyway, this, the co-determination bill, the CFPB, are all good examples of what I love about Warren. Her “making capitalism work for everybody” shtick just really resonates with this neoliberal shill.
I was originally going to post this yesterday afternoon, but my flight had terrible wifi, so now you’re getting it after dinner from Tokyo.