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After six debates, the 2020 Democratic candidates addressed whether they would break up big tech companies like Facebook and Google, if they were elected president.
In March, Elizabeth Warren announced her grand proposal to break up big tech firms like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, arguing that their sheer size and market power have staved off innovation and made the industry non-competitive.
Outside of somehow conflating privacy regulation and content moderation into the antitrust discussion, no other candidate who answered the question of whether to break up Big Tech endorsed Warren’s plan. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang said that Warren’s diagnosis of the issue was “one-hundred percent” correct, but that “competition doesn’t solve all of the problems.”
“There’s a reason no one is using Bing today,” Yang continued. “Using a 20th century antitrust framework will not work.”
Warren, of course, backed her own plan, arguing that “a handful of monopolists” shouldn’t “dominate our economy and our democracy.” Other candidates, like Cory Booker agreed that corporate consolidation is a major threat to the American economy, but stopped short of singling out any specific tech companies. If elected president, Booker said that he would appoint officials who would rigorously enforce current US antitrust laws, but didn’t acknowledge any changes that should be made to them.
Bernie Sanders didn’t have a chance to respond to the question, but he announced a sweeping new policy plan this week to reshape corporate America that included a reversal of the consumer welfare standard. That standard, which has become commonplace in antitrust law, generally is used as justification for officials to approve mergers if it means that prices would go down as a result. But when it comes to tech companies, most of their services are offered for free. You don’t pay to post a photo on Instagram or message a friend on Facebook.
Moderators asked California Senator Kamala Harris if breaking up tech companies would make it more difficult for them to fight disinformation and build broader coalitions to counter election interference. In response, she pivoted to Twitter and the platform’s unwillingness to ban President Donald Trump, calling his tweets and rhetoric dangerous.
”Twitter should be held accountable and shut down” Trump’s Twitter account, Harris said.
Beto O’Rourke suggested that it was a bad idea to target specific companies, but said that his administration would be “unafraid to break up big businesses.” He also floated his plan to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that would incentivize social media platforms to remove terrorist content, something he proposed shortly after his hometown of El Paso, Texas faced a major shooting earlier this year.
Largely, candidates held the same positions they had on breaking up big tech that they did earlier this year when Warren first posed the question. You can see their stances here.