US presidential hopeful wants to break up Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon

Senator Elizabeth Warren
Senator Elizabeth Warren. [Photo: Courtesy]
Senator Elizabeth Warren vowed on Friday to break up Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon if elected US president, to promote competition in the technology sector.

Seeking to stand out in a crowded field vying to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2020, Warren said that it was time to challenge the increasing dominance of America's biggest tech companies.

"We have these giant tech companies that think they rule the earth," she told a crowd of about 300 people at a campaign event in Queens, Long Island City.

"I don't want a government that's here to work for the giant tech companies. I want a government that's here to work for the people."

The event was held not far from the site where Amazon had planned to build a major outpost, creating 25,000 jobs. The plans were scrapped in February, with Amazon blaming opposition from local leaders.

Warren said that big tech companies come into towns, cities and states and "bully everyone into doing what they want" and "roll right over" small businesses and startups that are a threat.

"Giants are not allowed to buy out the competition. The competition needs the opportunity to thrive and grow," she said.

Earlier in the day, Warren said in a post on Medium that she would nominate regulators to unwind acquisitions such as Facebook's deals for WhatsApp and Instagram, Amazon's deals for Whole Foods and Zappos, and Google's purchases of Waze, Nest and DoubleClick.

She also proposed legislation that would require tech companies like Google and Amazon that offer an online marketplace or exchange to refrain from competing on their own platform. This would, for example, forbid Amazon from selling on its Amazon Marketplace platform.

Although Warren didn't explicitly mention Apple in her speech, she later told The Verge that she thinks the iPhone maker should be broken apart too - specifically, that it should not get to both run the App Store and distribute apps in it.

"Either they run the platform or they play in the store. They don't get to do both at the same time," she said.

In Washington, the president of the US Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue, said breaking up the big tech companies would "take us back to the Stone Age."

"This is not a vision for the future, but an archaic idea that should be dumped in your computer trash can," he said.

Meanwhile, NetChoice, an e-commerce trade group whose members include Facebook and Google, said Warren's plan would lead to higher prices.

"Senator 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," said Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel for NetChoice.

However, Tim Wu, a professor of law, science and technology at Columbia Law School, said in a tweet that it was "heartening" to see the idea of breaking up the tech giants gaining some traction.

Tech companies are some of the biggest political donors. Google spent $21 million to lobby in 2018 while Amazon spent $14.2 million and Facebook spent $12.62 million, according to their filings to US Congress.

Angering a deep-pocketed industry could hurt Democrats, but that is not likely to be a big concern for Warren, who made her political mark and plenty of enemies by going after big banks after the 2007-09 financial crisis.

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