Elizabeth Warren Wants To Beat Big Tech With An Antitrust Stick
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has just just quietly threatened to beat big tech monopolies with a big stick. Channeling the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt, Warren has proposed a plan to break up companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google in order to trim the bloated and douchey tech industry. By threatening Silicon Valley's socially awkward hoodie Hitlers, she's sending a signal to the rest of the corporatocracy that their tax-payer funded free lunch is over. It's about damn time!
In a Medium post announcing her proposed policy, Warren argues big tech companies have "too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy" and they "squash small businesses and innovation" so they can all drive around Palo Alto in Teslas and Hummers with plastic machine gun mounts. Warren's plan is a bit wonky (it's a broad economic policy on tech, SO SEXY!), but the TLDR is that tech companies should suffer the same fate as Ma Bell and Standard Oil.
First, any company running an online marketplace raking in $25 billion or more will be classified as a "platform utility" and barred from competing with other companies that use their platform to reach consumers. Companies earning between $90 million and $25 billion could still play with the big kids, but they'd have to follow new fairness rules. Anyone caught breaking the rules would be slapped with a five percent fine on their annual revenue (which is a lot).
The second part of Warren's plan would use existing antitrust rules to "unwind anti-competitive mergers," like Amazon owning Whole Foods and Zappos, or Google's ownership of Nest, DoubleClick and Waze. The TLDR here is Warren is telling Jeff Bezos he can either own a shoe company and a grocery store, or he can own an online catalog and delivery service, but he can't do both. Mark Zuckerberg could spy on you via Facebook, but he can't look at your drunken selfies and sext messages with Instagram and WhatsApp.
In order to enforce these rules, Warren says State Attorney Generals and newly appointed federal regulators would go after companies. These rules would also let random grandmas in flyover country sue tech companies if they're caught trying to crowd them out of online marketplaces.
Silicon Valley is of course scoffing at the plan. Rob Atkinson, president of a the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a tech think tank, bemoans the loss of Palo Alto's profits in arguing "many of the services big tech companies now provide free used to cost consumers money." According to Atkinson, breaking up the tech companies will force them to start charging money for ad-filled apps and services we currently get for free. And Facebook itself is (arguably) spooked by the idea of looming antitrust litigation as Zuckerberg recently announced that he suddenly gave a shit about your privacy while casually announcing he was merging Facebook with all the other crap it owns in order to argue it's too big to be broken up.
Warren is asking people to sign a petition if they want her go to California and start beating corporate overlords with Teddy Roosevelt's big, trust busting Sherman stick. We fully support this decision, and think it's about time someone slapped that robotic smirk off Mark Zuckerberg's face. We're not economists, but we're pretty confident big tech companies will do just fine even if they have to start paying their fair share and playing by the rules.
[Sen. Elizabeth Warren / Ars Technica / MSNBC / ITIF]
Dominic is a broke journalist in Chicago. You can find him in a dirty bar talking to weirdos, or in a gutter taking photos.