Elizabeth Warren hopes to secure the 2020 US Democratic presidential nomination by campaigning for the government to “break up monopolies” like Amazon, Google and Facebook.
In an article on Medium, Warren has written about her contempt for tech companies dominating the sector in the US and across the world. According to the presidential candidate, it’s the government’s responsibility to do something about it.
“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. 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,” she writes.
As part of her pledge to the American people, Warren says that she wants to ensure that even the most powerful companies in America have to “play by the rules”.
“I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favour and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor,” she explains.
At the top of her hit list are Amazon, Google and Facebook, who, if she gets her way, will have to undergo “big structural changes” to promote more competition.
Citing survey results from eMarketer and claims made by programmer, Andre Staltz, Warren says that almost half of e-commerce sales go through Amazon, while Google and Facebook attract more than 70 percent of all online traffic. According to her assertions, these businesses have achieved this by “using mergers to limit competition” and “using proprietary marketplaces to limit competition”.
“Amazon crushes small companies by copying the goods they sell on the Amazon Marketplace and then selling its own branded version. Google allegedly snuffed out a competing small search engine by demoting its content on its search algorithm, and it has favoured its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp,” she argues.
“Venture capitalists are now hesitant to fund new start-ups to compete with these big tech companies because it’s so easy for the big companies to either snap up growing competitors or drive them out of business. The number of tech start-ups has slumped, there are fewer high-growth young firms typical of the tech industry, and first financing rounds for tech startups have declined 22 percent since 2012.”
Warren’s administration plans to tackle this issue head-on with a two-step proposal.
“Companies with 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.”
This proposal is not dissimilar to the recent regulation updates for online marketplaces trading in India.
Additionally, Warren says that these companies would not be allowed to transfer or share data with third parties and that smaller companies, with global revenue between $90 million and $25 billion, would also be subject to these trading terms.
“Amazon Marketplace, Google’s ad exchange, and Google Search would be platform utilities under this law. Therefore, Amazon Marketplace and Basics, and Google’s ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be split apart. Google Search would have to be spun off as well.”
Warren’s second proposal is to appoint regulators that will work to reverse any illegal and “anti-competitive” tech mergers. These mergers would reportedly include the likes of Amazon, Whole Foods and Zappos, as well as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, to name a few.
“Here’s what will change: Small businesses would have a fair shot to sell their products on Amazon without the fear of Amazon pushing them out of business. 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,” she claims.