Senator Elizabeth Warren has pledged that, if elected president next year, she will aim to break up the big tech companies Amazon, Facebook and Google because they have too much control over Americans’ lives.
In her plan to rein in the influence of tech giants, Warren proposes legislation targeting companies with annual worldwide revenue of $25bn or more and imposing sweeping regulation on Silicon Valley.
“Today’s big tech companies have too much power – too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” the Massachusetts senator said in a blogpost. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else.”
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Warren, an antitrust advocate who hammered big banks following the 2007-2009 financial crisis, said she would select regulators who would seek to break up what she called “anti-competitive mergers” such as Facebook’s recent buyout of Instagram and Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods.
She added: “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.”
Warren made the pitch before a town hall appearance on Friday in the New York neighbourhood where Amazon recently abandoned plans to open a new headquarters after a fierce backlash from progressive activists.
She is the first in the Democrats’ crowded 2020 field to stake out such aggressive territory on an issue that could shape debate in the primary election. There has been a growing backlash, or “techlash”, in Washington as the Silicon Valley behemoths extend their influence, but so far the European Union has taken a much tougher stand.
One of Warren’s 2020 rivals, Senator Cory Booker, has faced criticism for his past closeness to the tech industry. Another candidate, Amy Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary antitrust subcommittee, told the Center for American Progress thinktank in Washington this week: “For so long, every time we proposed things like this, it was: ‘You’re trying to regulate the web. Wooooh!’ As opposed to saying, these are actually big media companies and your information is a commodity. That’s what this is.”
But NetChoice, an e-commerce trade group whose members include Facebook, warned that Warren’s plan would lead to higher prices for Americans. Carl Szabo, its vice-president and general counsel, told Reuters: “Warren is wrong in her assertion that tech markets lack competition. Never before have consumers and workers had more access to goods, services, and opportunities online.”