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Elizabeth Warren says she wants to break up Amazon, Google, and Facebook

A proposal to unwind Big Tech

Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Holds Campaigning Organizing Event In Dubuque, Iowa Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said today that, if elected president in 2020, her administration will break up the giants of the tech industry, including Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

The proposal is the most stringent stance taken by a candidate in the presidential campaign so far. Warren, pointing to the antitrust battle over Microsoft in the 1990s, said the companies must be broken up to stimulate competition in a monopolistic market.

“As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people,” Warren said in a statement. “To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies.”

The proposal notes that major companies have tightened their grip on the digital market through mergers, but regulators have largely let those deals pass. The result, Warren writes, has been “a dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector.”

How regulators could break up Facebook.

Warren’s proposal includes a plan to pass legislation designating platforms with more than $25 billion in revenue as “platform utilities,” which would be barred from owning both the platform and “participants” on the platform at the same time. Smaller companies would not face the same requirements. A law like that would have immediate effects on the digital economy, the proposal continues, as Google is forced to spin off Search and Amazon spins off Marketplace.

As president, Warren writes, she would also appoint regulators to reverse mergers that have already been completed. The proposal names some of those mergers specifically, including Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google’s acquisition of Waze and Nest.

The idea of taking antitrust action against the tech industry has gained new relevance recently, as the companies face a public reckoning over their power. But while many lawmakers have suggested regulation as an answer, few have crossed the threshold to an antitrust solution.

Warren frames the pitch as a way to bring true competition to the internet, which, under the plan, will become a place where Amazon’s power over sellers is curbed and where Facebook faces the prospect of competing with a newly independent Instagram. The proposal, she admits, wouldn’t solve every problem on the modern internet. There will still be foreign election interference and data privacy issues to consider. But, Warren writes, “healthy competition can solve a lot of problems.”