Big Tech: Should it be broken up?
Sen. Elizabeth Warren just fired a “thermonuclear warning shot” at Silicon Valley, said Tina Nguyen in VanityFair.com. The Democratic presidential candidate last week unveiled an audacious proposal to break up technology giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple. Technology companies with annual global revenue of $25 billion or more would be barred from sharing customer data with third parties, and would also be forbidden from selling their own products on those platforms. That means Amazon wouldn’t be able to sell its own line of “AmazonBasics”—which has grown to encompass everything from computer accessories to motor oil. Warren’s plan would also undo many of the industry’s biggest acquisitions, so Big Tech would face more competition. Facebook, for example, would be forced to spin off Instagram and WhatsApp, while Google would have to divest the Waze traffic app.
It’s time to “bust up the monopolies,” said Robert Reich in The Guardian (U.K.). Like the robber barons of the 19th century, America’s tech moguls have amassed an unhealthy level of control over the economy. Google accounts for nearly 90 percent of all online searches, and it and Facebook swallow up 58 percent of digital advertising. “Amazon is now the first stop for a third of all American consumers seeking to buy anything.” In this environment, it appears many entrepreneurs have stopped even trying to compete. The rate of job-creating businesses formed in the U.S. has dropped by half since 2004. Until recently, Democrats have been loath to criticize left-leaning Silicon Valley, said Issie Lapowksy in Wired.com. But with candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar also speaking out against tech’s monopoly power, the 2020 campaign season “is about to get a whole lot bumpier” for the industry.
“Break up Big Tech” is a catchy campaign slogan, said Megan McArdle in The Washington Post, but it would probably make most Americans’ lives “somewhat worse.” Forcing technology companies to downsize would choke off funding for free services that people rely on, like Gmail and Google Maps, without actually increasing competition. Nor would it substantially reduce these companies’ power over our day-to-day lives. Warren’s plan may be imperfect, said Sam Biddle in TheIntercept.com, but it has started an important conversation among presidential contenders about Silicon Valley’s growing power. That’s something that we, “the humble data-mined,” deserve to hear.