Elizabeth Warren is quickly becoming the candidate known for having a plan for nearly anything (check out her entire merch line dedicated to this idea. In unrelated news, Warren’s PR team never sleeps.) She’s rocked the boat a lot this election cycle, but one of her most controversial ideas is undoubtedly breaking up “Big Tech.”
“Today’s big tech companies have too much power – too much power over our economy, our society and our democracy,” Warren said in her official description of the policy. And it’s got Big Tech giants shaking in their very expensive boots.
Mark Zuckerburg, founder and CEO of Facebook, told employees that a Warren presidency would “suck” for the company– hilariously enough, these comments were supposed to be private but were ultimately leaked to the press. How does it feel, Mark? To have something you wanted to be kept private suddenly become public? Ironic.
But what does Warren mean when she says she’s going to “break up” Big Tech? Right now, it’s unclear. The official statement about this policy on her website just says, “[m]y administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition — including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google.” But she hasn’t quite articulated what those “big structural changes” will be. It’s not rocket science, however, to see where she’s going with this: subjecting Big Tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google to governmental regulations. This is where this idea of completely breaking up Big Tech gets tricky. If the government gets to ultimately regulate these companies that are an integral part of almost every American’s day-to-day life, where does that leave freedom of speech?
It’s undeniable that Facebook is a place where the dreaded “fake news” flourishes. I don’t know how many times my relatives have shared articles with titles like, “HOLY CRAP!! Bill Clinton Makes MASSIVE ANNOUNCEMENT!! SPREAD THIS EVERYWHERE!!” from a site called freepatpost.com. I’m serious– this is a real article one of my relatives actually shared on Facebook last year with the caption “ARE THE CLINTON’S A CORRUPT DISGRACE? YES = SHARE.” Unsurprisingly, when I tried to click on the link, it brought me to a dead web page.
I genuinely like most of Warren’s policies, and while I think something should be done to lessen the influence these big tech companies have, completely breaking them up and subjecting them to government regulation leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Sure, I might like what Warren deems to be appropriate speech in the hallowed marketplace of ideas, but what if our current President had that power? What if someone who is the complete antithesis of everything I stand for gets elected after Warren and suddenly the definition of protected speech does a complete 180? I don’t usually like slippery slope arguments, but this one seems likely.
Ultimately, I think that Warren’s declaration of breaking up Big Tech is a campaign promise; a way to entice the further left Democrats or Bernie bros into supporting her despite her overwhelmingly centrist image. This policy would most definitely not stand in the courts, but it has sparked an interesting and completely necessary conversation about the massive influence the Internet and social media have on our society, and what checking their power would look like.