Elizabeth Warren reveals her plan to break up Big Tech

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/03/09/platform-utilities.html


There needs to be a provision to address how firms will try to subvert this. Likely just set up a bunch of wholly owned subsidiary’s and keep those under the limit as a start.


I am torn about Elizabeth Warren. She seems like a very plausible candidate in a lot of ways, and I like that she’s focused on specific things the government could fix tomorrow (“campaigning in prose”). But when I read about her initiatives, they often feel a bit too specific. I’d be happy to see Elizabeth Warren given a seat on the board of any given public company, but that idea obviously doesn’t scale to all companies, and as @KathyPartdeux says, at that level of micromanagement, businesses can play the game much better than the government.

Still, if Warren were prez, I can believe that she would retain and listen to a lot of good advisors, and perhaps find ways to do this stuff a bit more strategically.


Does it mean that Apple has to break open the walled-garden of the App Store?

This would allow Facebook to globally distribute spyware that violates the current privacy terms and services; instead of underhandedly distributing it to teens until Apple caught them at it.


Hearings in this bill need to happen. They won’t in the senate but maybe in the house for a companion bill?

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I don’t think its an extreme idea to break up something like google that controls 90% of the market and has virtually no competitors. It is kind of amazing though that Warren seems to be the first to bring it up on the campaign trail for the 2020 election.


This sounds like the common carrier regulations that were used to combat thee power of the large railway companies in the early 20th century.

To me, this sounds like a sensible plan, that recognises the fact that some of these businesses can’t just be split up, as they leverage network effects. Forcing them to spin off what can be split out, and heavily regulating the rest is a model that worked for rail and telecommunications, so it should work here.


I think the Native American heritage thing might be enough of a scandal to sink her. Even if she didn’t physically check any boxes it does look like she was using a distant ancestor to claim Native American heritage to boost her career. And until she admits to that or comes up with a really convincing explanation otherwise Trump can hit her with that every day during the campaign.

That’s the thing that actually makes a scandal harmful, it’s isn’t the action as much as whether you can give a conclusion to the story.

That’s why the emails hurt Clinton so much. It wasn’t that she broke policy or maybe shared classified emails, it’s that she never copped to giving herself special treatment by ignoring department policy, or really explain why the IT guy screwed up and deleted stuff after the subpoena. Even without the FBI or Russia stuff the email story wouldn’t go away because Trump could always pose those questions to which she had no answers. If she just said “I gave myself special treatment because I was the boss, it was a mistake I won’t do it again” she’d probably be President.

That’s why TrumpU was the one scandal that actually hurt Trump, because he couldn’t address it since there was no other explanation other than it being a scam.

That’s why SNC-Lavalin is hurting Trudeau so much, because he won’t admit that he was trying to influence the AG in her decision.

It’s also why I don’t think the staff treatment issue will hurt Klobuchar, she admitted to it, explained it, and it’s no longer an interesting story.

And until Warren can give a really good answer to the N.A. heritage question people are going to keep asking it.


I honestly don’t think she’s plausible. Sure I’d love her but I don’t see her getting elected anytime soon. Still if she can give a voice/platform to ideas like this? that’s a good start. Though I see this as another roadblock to her having any chance.


The workers’ revolution?

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“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. Tech entrepreneurs would have a fighting chance to compete against the tech giants.”

This will be found under the “when monkeys fly out of my butt” menu choice.


Trump was enabled by a media that spent that infamous 30X as much time/words on emails as on all policy issues put together. If Trump keeps harping on it and the media DON’T do that, then I don’t think it’ll be much more than dull.

But the issue seems to already be wearing out. There was a re-ignition in early February with the WaPo story on her claiming the heritage in an application to the Texas State Bar, but if you look at the google search, the stories died back down in a few days. Right in the middle of them was media self-criticism likening the coverage to the emails:

Warren made an appearance two days later at a major Native American organization lunch, and wasn’t asked about it, indeed received words of support:

By a week later, the NYT was interviewing actual voters and finding them bored with it and wanting to talk policy:

…Whatever the outcome, I don’t think it’s the equivalent of the emails story. It’s not going to have the legs. All Warren has to do is keep showing up at First Nations events and talking…policies that will benefit them, which so far is working.

Another difference is that the media harped on emails because most of Clinton’s policy discussions were well-known and frankly boring to reporters that knew them by heart. Warren keeps coming up with red meat in media terms: dramatic proposals to tax income, reduce wealth itself, manufacture generic drugs, and now, break up monopolies. She’s probably saving the serious red meat - financial regulation - for later. Clinton never had that.


I had written her off as a possible final candidate because of how the press endless attacked her but you know what, her interviews this past week on this specific issue really gave her a chance to shine.

At first I thought this was a foolish idea and then I saw her very intelligent interview about it on MSNBC and she came across amazing and convinced me.

Hope she gets more chances to show she knows her stuff and is not just progressive by a whim but by serious knowledge.

interview that convinced me:


I think this was addressed. They wouldn’t have to open the walled garden, they just wouldn’t be able to sell their own products in it. That wouldn’t be particularly onerous for Apple.

You mean the advertising market or the search market?

How about also removing all the barriers to anyone manufacturing generic drugs. If you removed the barriers erected by corruption and regulatory capture, we wouldn’t even need the government to do it.

The wealth tax I think is not a great idea. You could get the same desirable effects with higher taxes on personal income at the high end, and a much higher estate tax at the high end, without having to deal with the case where the wealth is all in the form of a stake in a privately owned company.


I’m citing the 60 Minutes story about Google, I forget which they were referencing. For me, it was a general reference. My guess is the search market. I would be lying to you though if I said, I 100% remember which it is.

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That’s the problem with coverage of this, because they’re not at all the same. Google doesn’t have a monopoly position in search, at least in any sense the government should be involved in, because they do have competitors, and there is no barrier at all to everyone switching to their competitors. It takes 10 seconds to change your default search engine, and the only reason everyone doesn’t do that is because Google’s search is better.

They do, however, have a classic market monopoly position in online advertising.

The difficulty for regulators is that the search and advertising are not viable businesses without each other, and there’s no clear way to break up an internet advertising monopoly (e.g. you can’t do it geographically, like with Ma Bell. )


If Apple is not allowed to sell or distribute software then the iPhone is just a brick. Apple’s entire business is predicated on delivering a hardware+software package that works well together.


My impression was just that they wouldn’t be able to sell apps in the app store, which as far as I know, they don’t do anyway.

In general, I think it’s bad that Apple is even involved in this discussion, because they don’t have a monopoly position, or even a majority share, in any of the markets they operate in, so it seems more like trying to punish success when they’re brought up in this context.


They sell/distribute a lot of software in the App Store, including the operating system, Apps like Final Cut Pro, etc.

Apple is a tech company that has more $25B in revenues. They are a ‘monopoly in iPhone’ some would argue. Unless there is a carve-out for Apple by name, they are affected.