By God, I actually agree with one of my state’s congressional representatives about something!
Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about Fauxcahontas herself, cultural appropriator par excellence and 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.
Why, you may ask? Well, Warren recently unveiled a plan to break up the power of Big Tech–something you may have noticed I am very much in favor of, if you’ve been a reader for a while–and Facebook responds by . . . removing her ads about the plan from Facebook.
Curious why I think FB has too much power? Let’s start with their ability to shut down a debate over whether FB has too much power. Thanks for restoring my posts. But I want a social media marketplace that isn’t dominated by a single censor. #BreakUpBigTech https://t.co/UPS6dozOxn
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 11, 2019
Don’t worry: They we’re quickly restored. It pays to be a left-winger, you see? But the fact remains: Warren is not wrong.
Let’s take a look at the key aspects of her plan, shall we?
First, the problem as Warren sees it:
America’s big tech companies have achieved their level of dominance in part based on two strategies:
- Using Mergers to Limit Competition. Facebook has purchased potential competitors Instagram and WhatsApp. Amazon has used its immense market power to force smaller competitors like Diapers.com to sell at a discounted rate. Google has snapped up the mapping company Waze and the ad company DoubleClick. Rather than blocking these transactions for their negative long-term effects on competition and innovation, government regulators have waved them through.
- Using Proprietary Marketplaces to Limit Competition. Many big tech companies own a marketplace — where buyers and sellers transact — while also participating on the marketplace. This can create a conflict of interest that undermines 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 favored its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp.
And here’s what Warren proposes to do about it:
First, by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that platform.
Companies with an 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. Platform utilities would be required to meet a standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users. Platform utilities would not be allowed to transfer or share data with third parties.
For smaller companies (those with annual global revenue of between $90 million and $25 billion), their platform utilities would be required to meet the same standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users, but would not be required to structurally separate from any participant on the platform.
To enforce these new requirements, federal regulators, State Attorneys General, or injured private parties would have the right to sue a platform utility to enjoin any conduct that violates these requirements, to disgorge any ill-gotten gains, and to be paid for losses and damages. A company found to violate these requirements would also have to pay a fine of 5 percent of annual revenue.
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.
Second, my administration would appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers.
Current antitrust laws empower federal regulators to break up mergers that reduce competition. I will appoint regulators who are committed to using existing tools to unwind anti-competitive mergers, including:
- Amazon: Whole Foods; Zappos
- Facebook: WhatsApp; Instagram
- Google: Waze; Nest; DoubleClick
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.
I can’t find much that’s objectionable here.
Get over your knee-jerk “Muh private businesses!” conditioning and realize these tech giants do not care about the Constitution, fair play, freedom of speech, competition, or any classical definitions of what we call “capitalism.” The Masters of the Universe are unelected individuals with gigantic organizations that have as much power and influence as governments.
“Build your own platform!” “Vote with your wallet!” “Use something else!”
Loser talk! These attitudes are why we are where we are. You can’t just “build your own Google.” The way things are structured are anti-competitive.
And Google, Facebook, et al. have more information about you than even the government. Why do you trust big tech with that?
Oh, right: “Because all businessmen are heroes!”
Put down the Ayn Rand for a second and realize no they are not. They may start as heroes, and small business owners and entrepreneurs–who represent the majority of Americans–are amazing people. But there comes a point in the cycle where corporations do amass too much power and influence and get to throw their near-limitless money around to bend the rules to favor them. Bye-bye competition!
Some call this “crony capitalism.” Others “corporatism.” I call it “inevitable.” Whether the system is a democratically representative republic or a socialist autocracy, the end result is the same.
Of course, Warren has to toss in concern about mythical Russian interference with the 2016 election (as if it actually had an influence, or that the US doesn’t do the exact same thing to foreign countries).
And shockingly, her plan says nothing about political censorship and the tech giants playing it both ways by acting as publishers but being protected as mere platforms.
Even more shockingly, the plan says nothing about the pernicious influence of big money in politics–how these giant, powerful megacorps buy and sell politicians. How can the so-called anti-Wall Street, anti-big business Elizabeth Warren not address this in her plan to break up big tech?
Big tech got to where they are because they spread their money around to people on both sides of the aisle.
To be fair, in response to my email to Warren on a related issue, she did mention sponsoring legislation to “curb undisclosed spending in elections,” and so on, in her response to me.
So is this plan enough to make me vote for Warren for president? No. I’m not a one-issue voter. But if she manages to get something like this done as a Senator, I’d actually vote to send her back to Washington.
I mean, it’s Massachusetts. The Republican ain’t winning anyway.
And yeah, I know she’s a liar and a hypocrite and a communist and a fake Indian. But the Republicans I keep voting for are doing jack shit about this.
And speaking of Republicans, how have any not made breaking up big tech a huge part of their platforms? How has Trump let himself preempted by this? I know he’s made a little noise on the issue, but so far nothing concrete.
If the Right had any acumen, it would be all over this issue, as well as the student loan debt issue, but it won’t because the Republican Party is called the Stupid Party for a reason. Big business must be protected with the fervor of a religious zealot defending its god from blasphemy . . . even though that god is trying to kill them.
A party that wasn’t sexually attracted to losing would reach across the aisle on this. But since breaking up big tech would actually benefit their constituents, they won’t.
Put the fear of God into these corporations. If government can’t protect the people from (a) unfairly competitive practices, (b) our information being gathered, stored, and sold, (c) and unelected corporations squelching our constitutionally enshrined free speech rights in order to influence elections–because these platforms are the new public square–why have a government? Why have freedom of speech?
For a great, action-packed story about the dangers of big tech, you’ll love my debut novel A Traitor to Dreams. It goes places you won’t expect . . . and that’s a good thing!