Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren unveils Big Tech breakup plan


Washington (AFP)

Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren on Friday unveiled a proposal to break up Big Tech, saying firms such as Amazon, Google and Facebook hold "?too much power" in society.

Warren said in a statement that she would as president press for legislation to designate big online companies with revenues of $25 billion or more as "platform utilities" barred from owning "any participants on that platform."

The Massachusetts senator said she would also appoint anti-trust enforcers "committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers," including acquisitions in recent years by Amazon, Facebook and Google.

"Today's big tech companies have too much power? -- ?too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy," she wrote in a blog post on Medium ahead of a New York rally where she was to speak about the plan.

"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."

The proposal comes amid a growing "techlash" movement in the United States against the firms, which have grown to become the world's most valuable, amid concerns on handling of private user data and dominance of certain sectors such as online retail and internet search, and a series of antitrust investigations in Europe.

- 'Unwinding' Waze, WhatsApp -

Warren specifically said she would seek to unwind Amazon's acquisition of the Whole Foods grocery chain and shoe retailer Zappos; Facebook's WhatsApp and Instagram; and Google's integration of the ad tech firm DoubleClick, internet of things maker Nest and mobile navigation application Waze.

"Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market? --?which will put pressure on big tech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy," she wrote.

Warren said as part of her proposal, Amazon Marketplace, Google's ad exchange, and Google Search would be considered platform utilities.

"Small businesses would have a fair shot to sell their products on Amazon without the fear of Amazon pushing them out of business," she said. "Google couldn't smother competitors by demoting their products on Google Search. Facebook would face real pressure from Instagram and WhatsApp to improve the user experience and protect our privacy."

Warren's plan sparked swift reaction from some analysts aligned with Silicon Valley.

"It's not pro-consumer," said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a think tank that follows the sector.

Atkinson said the plan "reflects a 'big is bad, small is beautiful' ideology run amok."

"The proposal ignores the fact that many of the services big tech companies now provide free used to cost consumers money," Atkinson added. "Breaking up large internet companies just because they are large won't help consumers. It will hurt them by reducing convenience, reducing quality of service and innovation."

But Matt Stoller of the Open Markets Institute, a group focused on competition in the tech sector, said the plan is long overdue.

"The @ewarren plan to undo mergers and conflicts of interest is the *moderate* approach. Keep in mind the Sherman Act is not just a civil statute but a criminal one. Monopolization is a crime," he tweeted.