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March 9, 2019, 9:46 a.m. EST

Elizabeth Warren outlines plans to break up Amazon, Google and Facebook

Start thinking of ‘Big Tech’ as platform utilities, says the 2020 presidential candidate

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By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch


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U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) waves to the crowd before speaking at an organizing event on February 18, 2019 in Glendale, California.

Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. senator running for president, on Friday outlined her plans to break up what she calls “Big Tech” in what could be considered the most sweeping salvo against the industry.

Warren, a frequent critic of big business, said in an article on Medium that companies like Facebook Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +0.10% , Amazon.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN -2.39% , and Alphabet’s Google /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL -0.89%   /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG -0.86% have used mergers and proprietary marketplaces to limit competition.

Her plan would designate any online marketplace, exchange or platform for connecting third parties that is held by a company with global revenue of at least $25 billion a year as “platform utilities,” where companies would prohibiting from owning participants on that platforms, meet a standard of dealing with users and not be allowed to transfer or share data with third parties. Smaller companies would also face those same standards but wouldn’t have to structurally separate, according to the Warren plan.

Amazon Marketplace, Google’s ad exchange, and Google Search would be platform utilities under this law.

She also would appoint regulators who would unwind completed acquisitions such as Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market, Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp and Google’s acquisition of Waze.

“The steps I’m proposing today will allow existing big tech companies to keep offering customer-friendly services, while promoting competition, stimulating innovation in the tech sector, and ensuring that America continues to lead the world in producing cutting-edge tech companies,” Warren wrote.

Shares of those three companies were all lower as the broader market struggled in wake of lower-than-expected jobs growth numbers as well as concerns over China.

Warren so far has had one of the more detailed policy agendas of any of the major Democratic candidates. The RealClearPolitics average of Democratic polls puts her fourth behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris.

There has been bipartisan interest in promoting privacy legislation — aimed primarily at Facebook — but less in greater antitrust enforcement.

Related: Capitol Hill split on pre-emption will let Facebook, Google escape federal data privacy legislation, analyst says

/zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 239.98
+0.25 +0.10%
Volume: 11.67M
July 15, 2020 1:01p
P/E Ratio
32.83
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$683.55 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.57M
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/zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 3,010.25
-73.75 -2.39%
Volume: 3.61M
July 15, 2020 1:01p
P/E Ratio
143.75
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$1538.23 billion
Rev. per Employee
$359,671
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 1,507.29
-13.57 -0.89%
Volume: 748,277
July 15, 2020 1:01p
P/E Ratio
30.39
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$1038.07 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.39M
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 1,507.45
-13.13 -0.86%
Volume: 792,317
July 15, 2020 1:01p
P/E Ratio
30.37
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$1038.07 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.39M
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Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's Washington bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter @MKTWgoldstein.

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