Sen. Warren: We Need to Break Up Amazon, Facebook, Google

Jeannie Matthews
March 10, 2019

The senior United States senator and a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination said the companies had "bulldozed competition and tilted the playing field in their favour" as she laid out a plan for strict antitrust rules.

Consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge applauded Warren's plan, saying that large Internet platforms are able to "discriminate in favor of their own products and services, making it harder for small businesses to thrive, diminishing consumer choice, and potentially increasing prices". In the first, Warren would pass legislation that prohibits companies from offering a marketplace and also participating in that marketplace - forcing giants like Amazon and Google to spin off large parts of their businesses. Facebook declined to comment.

Warren's proposal would also prevent Amazon from selling its own branded products through its platform, resulting in lost revenue for the company but not killing the business model of taking a cut of every other transaction on the website. It would limit their ability to expand and break up what she calls "anti-competitive mergers" - such as Facebook's purchase of Instagram and Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods.

Elizabeth Warren with an American flag as her backdrop speaks to local supporters in NY.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren released an aggressive plan on Friday to target the power of Silicon Valley by breaking up some of America's biggest tech companies. That means that Amazon Marketplace and AmazonBasics would be split apart, as would Google's ad exchange and its businesses on the exchange.

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.

Warren answers questions from reporters after speaking at Plymouth State University in Plymouth N.H. Feb. 23 2019
Brian Snyder Reuters FILE

Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout praised the plan, calling it as a sign that a "new anti-monopoly movement is happening, and Warren is coming out swinging at the right targets!"

I reached out to Amazon, Facebook, and Google for comment about Warren's proposal and will update this post if I hear back.

Warren specifically called out acquisitions by Amazon, Facebook and Google in the past few years in her announcement about breaking up tech companies.

One of Warren's 2020 rivals, Senator Cory Booker, has faced criticism for his past closeness to the tech industry.

"The next wave of technological innovations will likely require enormous economies of scale to serve consumers".

At the end of February, the Federal Trade Commission announced it was creating a task force led by senior competition officials to investigate potentially anticompetitive conduct by technology companies. She's also competing directly with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for the votes of the party's progressive wing, a key constituency in the months-long series of caucuses and primaries leading to the nomination. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has largely been willing to embrace the big tech giants.

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