The criticism of Big Tech has been a long-time coming, and today it emerged as a likely talking and policy point during the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren and current Senator has just proposed to break up Google, alongside Amazon and Facebook.

Proposed problem

According to Warren, “the government must break up monopolies and promote competitive markets.” She cites the antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s as being responsible for the current crop of internet companies:

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. Aren’t we all glad that now we have the option of using Google instead of being stuck with Bing?

Warren’s complaint is centered on Big Tech having too much power over the economy, society, and democracy. She is specifically referring to Google, Amazon, and Facebook today, and claims that “they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.” The plan also targets Apple and its iOS App Store, with more details at 9to5Mac.

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.

Her complaints on Google — Alphabet is not mentioned anywhere in the post — are as follows:

  • “More than 70% of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook.”
  • Google’s history of “Using Mergers to Limit Competition,” specifically Waze and ad company DoubleClick
  • “Google allegedly snuffed out a competing small search engine by demoting its content on its search algorithm, and it has favored its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp.”

According to Warren, this has led to a “dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector.” She cites:

The number of tech startups has slumped, there are fewer high-growth young firms typical of the tech industry, and first financing rounds for tech startups have declined 22% since 2012.

Proposed solutions

The 2020 candidate’s solutions are centered around how the “ownership of a network and participating on the network cause[s] a conflict of interest.” Warren is clear that she is against nationalization of industries — as American has chosen not to do in the past — but rather ensuring that networks do not abuse their power.

Warren wants to pass legislation that designates Google and other large tech platforms as “Platform Utilities.” Companies will then be “broken apart from any participant on that platform.”

Companies with an annual global revenue of $25 billion or more and that offer to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties would be designated as “platform utilities.”

These companies would be prohibited from owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform. Platform utilities would be required to meet a standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users. Platform utilities would not be allowed to transfer or share data with third parties.

This would be enforced by giving federal regulators, State Attorneys General, or injured private parties the “right to sue a platform utility to enjoin any conduct that violates these requirements.”

A company found to violate these requirements would also have to pay a fine of 5 percent of annual revenue.

Google Search and Google’s ad exchange network would be classified as platform utilities, with the former “spun off” and the latter “split apart.” Additionally, Warren would reverse “illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers,” like Waze, Nest, and DoubleClick.

We’ve reach out to Google for comment on this policy proposal.

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